65

In the previous version the logout button is under your username, which it can be found by clicking the down arrow. However, in the new version, after a couple minutes of searching, it is under the "site-switcher" button:

This is really illogical since the logout button is usually under your username, including Google and Yahoo! services.

I suggest bringing back the user menu which will definitely benefit new users and even old users.

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  • 3
    Why? It's a per site action, the new place fits just fine. Dec 4, 2013 at 21:56
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    @ShaWizDowArd - But if it is a per site action as you stated, then why isn't there a logout button for every single site? It still doesn't make sense. Dec 4, 2013 at 21:57
  • 2
    There is: for the current site you're in, exactly like before. Dec 4, 2013 at 22:03
  • @ShaWizDowArd - What I mean is seperate logout buttons next to all sites. Dec 4, 2013 at 22:05
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    I still can't find the logout button :/ Dec 4, 2013 at 22:25
  • I am looking for data, and not really finding any. Generally (on the internet), what percentage of users log out? Is it a "primary action"? I saw in a somewhat related question someone mentioned using customer service calls as a metric, but I don't know that every single frustration a user has will result in a customer service call, certainly does not seem like it would for logging out.
    – Chris
    Dec 4, 2013 at 22:49
  • @Arian I took the liberty to add screenshot, now it should be clearer. Dec 4, 2013 at 22:58
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    Regardless of whether there's a logout link hidden away somewhere, there should be one on the profile page. Dec 4, 2013 at 23:37
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    I could not find the log out button either, until I read your question.
    – B Faley
    Dec 5, 2013 at 7:09
  • I also could not find the logout button, but if have to be honest I have not logged out from stackoverflow, just closing my browser. That's what most users do. If it have to be placed under the rules, yes it have to be visible on the top-right corner, but if it is not so clickable, it will consume space, and this project has important buttons and features on its bar, that's why the designers may have decided to place it on the current place. I only do not understand the need to logout separately. What this help users with? Dec 5, 2013 at 7:49
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    What would really be funny if the help drop-down could have a "Where is the logout" article. Dec 13, 2013 at 1:54
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    Never press that REP button!
    – Cilan
    Jan 8, 2014 at 22:17
  • 1
    I have to google search to find the logout button to this site... I guess there must be something wrong here... I never had troubles on any other sites before
    – nodeffect
    Jul 31, 2014 at 6:53
  • 1
    I was searching for the answer for this in the Help Center, but there was nothing there. :/ I haven't seen any other website where the log out button is in the top left corner, it's usually on the right side.
    – Hjulle
    Apr 23, 2015 at 11:08
  • The ability to log out is needed when changing e-mails. Want to verify the new one works before deleting the old one. Since the interface keeps changing, the correct method needs to be at the START of the FAQ and of the "tour"
    – WGroleau
    Sep 7, 2016 at 16:37

4 Answers 4

29

I agree that the placement is odd. I saw the title of your question and searched around for the logout button myself before I read the question body -- I didn't find it.

After reading your question and tracking it down, I still don't like it. We have a link to the blog, a link to chat... navigation items, then we have a user account state control? It seems like it is located there for lack of a better place to put it, rather than it making sense in context.

I don't think the user menu is necessary, though; it duplicates features that are located under other menu items. I like the new top bar, other than this one weird thing. I think simply moving the "log out" link to the bar, next to the user image, would be just fine. This groups user account-related navigation together, and there's plenty of room for it!

log out button placement suggestion

log out button placement suggestion with review link


I've been looking around, trying to find some data, in general, on the frequency of users taking the time to log out when using a website. I am not finding much in the way of hard data, but a few things emerge:

  • the log out button is (almost) universally located in the immediate vicinity of the part of the interface which indicates the current user and provides access to account management (privacy, settings, etc)

  • security professionals broadly encourage users to log out (though fail to provide very solid reasoning)

  • some top web properties treat logging out as a primary action

A round-up of some top web properties shows the proximity of user account controls and the log out button:

top sites and their log out buttons

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  • No that's where the review link is. (reach 2K rep to see it) Dec 4, 2013 at 22:02
  • @ShaWizDowArd I have 2k on StackOverflow, and there's still plenty of room for the user account state control to be located near the other user account-related navigation.
    – Chris
    Dec 4, 2013 at 22:04
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    Still, the decision was to clean up the top bar not clutter it with links. If you add logout you might as well bring back main/meta, chat etc. Dec 4, 2013 at 22:05
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    @ShaWizDowArd - In my opinion the original top bar is not extremely cluttered. At least the links are grouped up by their actions unlike now. The current location of the chat/blog button is fine, but the logout button is not. Dec 4, 2013 at 22:06
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    @ShaWizDowArd One link != clutter. IMO, the logout button being next to links to the blog and chat is cluttering up THAT interface.
    – Chris
    Dec 4, 2013 at 22:07
  • @Derek and Chris - let's agree to disagree then. All is good. :) Dec 4, 2013 at 22:08
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    There may be "plenty of room" in your browser, but someone viewing the site from their phone will probably feel differently.
    – Brian
    Dec 4, 2013 at 22:20
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    @Brian Invalid argument: The entire layout is different on a mobile device. The desktop version is not responsive, and even if it were... media queries exist. As it stands, the layout is static width, so screen size is not a factor.
    – Chris
    Dec 4, 2013 at 22:27
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    Interesting, I wonder if they plan to change the mobile version too. That argument still applies to people with low resolution screens though.
    – Brian
    Dec 4, 2013 at 22:36
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    We thought about placing logout in the top bar itself, but found that it has two drawbacks: 1. taking up space; 2. actually encouraging people to log out. We wanted to keep it accessible (so it didn't end up buried on, say, the user profile), but just a bit out of the way to allow for something more useful most of the time.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Dec 4, 2013 at 23:08
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    @AnnaLear I edited my answer to include the results of a little research. I am not finding very good statistical data on the occurrence of logging out. But, we do see, as illustrated, that many top sites keep the log out button in close proximity to other user-related navigation. I am not sure about your point #2 -- why do you care if people log out, but I think the point still remains that the current location is not intuitive or in line with modern (or old, for that matter) interface trends.
    – Chris
    Dec 4, 2013 at 23:12
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    @Chris That's a hard threshold to define, I agree. My hope is that the little arrow beside the SE logo sufficiently hints at it being a dropdown. And once you click it once, you can't really miss the logout link.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Dec 4, 2013 at 23:30
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    @AnnaLear I saw the drop-down, and poked around in it, and completely over-looked the logout link. It is a case, I think, of hiding in plain sight due to context. As the screenshots show, I am "trained" to see logout in an interface group with the rest of my account controls. I see my face/name/little hunchback user icon guy, odds are I can get a drop-down there and log out. I don't look for it in other navigation. You are, of course, right about the dust of change; experienced people have a harder time being objective about this kind of thing. At any rate, thanks for the insight :)
    – Chris
    Dec 4, 2013 at 23:36
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    @AnnaLear - So basically the log out button is "hidden" is to prevent people from logging out and boost up participation rate? This doesn't seem to make a very strong argument because what keeps me (or us) coming back is not because I didn't log out, instead it is because I actually like to come back. Dec 5, 2013 at 1:22
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    @AnnaLear The fact that it's not in an intuitive location is frustrating users. It has been demonstrated in these answers that a logout link would not be terribly intrusive and that users expect a logout link [that isn't hidden]. You're argument that it's done to keep users is silly. Do what users want to keep users. Sep 9, 2014 at 4:44
5

Suggest making the user-image-and-rep button a dropdown with two selections...

  • Profile
  • Logout

Rationale

Standard Location
Logout being the last item in a dropdown menu under the logged in user's name is an almost ubiquitous practice.

User Interface Intuitiveness
Sir Issac Newton's third law of motion tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This expectation of symmetry forms the basis of much of the "intuitiveness" in a good user interface design. For example:

  • the ubiquitous popup query with Okay and Cancel buttons
  • a yes/no prompt
  • true/false logic
  • open/close
  • read/write
  • good/bad
  • in/out

Login without logout is like entering a room through a door that can only be opened from the outside. Once through, you're trapped. The new placement of the logout button is like having a secret, hidden latch on the inside that you must find to escape the room. While this analogy may seem extreme, it describes that feeling of apprehension users get when they've initiated an action and it is not obvious how to gracefully exit it.

Security and Reliability
Logging out may not be a reliable security measure, but it does significantly improve system reliability on both ends by cleanly releasing resources and discarding associations.

Clearing Credentials
Logging out with the button under the StackExchange dropdown often hangs on the Clear Credentials page without presenting its Logout button. The functionality of a one-click log out of all SE sites is vital for daily usability since most people frequent several sites.

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    Currently said button links to your profile, and it's the only direct link to it in the entire top bar as far as I see. I assume you mean it should become a dropdown with two links, so that access isn't lost? That also fits with your symmetry argument. However, I dislike needing an extra click to hit my profile. I go there much more often than I log out, and I'm confident this is the case for the vast majority of users. Dec 12, 2013 at 16:57
  • Thanks ESN. You are correct. Have edited to clarify. Dec 13, 2013 at 1:30
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    @EsotericScreenName That's how I landed on a link right on the bar itself. As Anna said in the comments there, the current location is essentially where it is for lack of a better place. i believe the argument can be made that a "better place" exists, by UX standards -- near the account controls. As for this suggestion, if the choice is between a link right on the bar or making it a drop-down just to hide the link in it, I'd definitely go with the simple link. Most accessible, least complex solution to the problem.
    – Chris
    Dec 13, 2013 at 15:02
4
+250

Here is a possible solution that may be a good compromise between the new and old. It would consist of using a "x" icon to the left of the users icon - only when it is highlighted or "hovering".

The x would log you out, and the rest of the user link would work as it does currently.

Normal:

enter image description here

On Hover:

enter image description here

Closer look:

enter image description here

This would:

  • Maintain the current design
  • Only take a em of space
  • Provide a fast and easy logout
  • Be in the "logical" placment near the user picture on the right
  • Not clutter the design, or add more menus

As a side note, it would also be possible to show it in both states if functionality for "touch" would be an issue: enter image description here

5
  • Nice idea. +1, this makes a little more sense and would be slightly faster than going into the menu, though this is really a per-user thing. Dec 16, 2013 at 16:14
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    Remeber that the main propose of the new bar (or so I think) is to remove the no-touch-friendly hover actions.
    – Braiam
    Dec 16, 2013 at 16:28
  • @Braiam sure, that is also why the other might not be removed, or continue to push for a link "in the profile". But there is also the possibility of just showing it if touching was a problem. Dec 16, 2013 at 16:42
  • How about an X icon in the extreme right corner, following the search field? That's the most common place for an exit button. Dec 26, 2013 at 15:32
  • That could work, If it was there they could do a menu "Log out: 'Of This site'; 'All Sites'" Dec 26, 2013 at 16:18
-2

While I agree that the placement of the logout link is a little odd, I can't agree that bringing back the user menu is the best solution.

Let me walk you through how we came get rid of the user menu, by examining the items found in that menu:

  • "activity" link: Specific to you, linked to a tab on your profile page that contains answers you've accepted; questions, answers, and comments you've posted; badges you've earned; edits and reviews you've completed; and edits you've suggested. Of these, the only item that is something that happened to you (as opposed to something you did) is badges earned. We felt that these deserved better visibility and are now in the "achievements" dropdown (along with rep changes and privileges earned). Everything else is just reference; since your whole user card in the top bar links to your profile, you can still access the other information, though it's an extra click away.

  • "privileges" link: NOT specific to you; a standard reference page that lists all of the privileges for the site you're on. The primary interesting thing about privileges is earning them, which you are notified of through the achievements dropdown. Few people need or want to reference a privilege they don't have yet, so this link went away.

  • UTC time: NOT specific to you. This mostly matters with respect to the rep cap and to earning badges, so we moved it to the achievements dropdown, where you can view it in the context of those two things.

  • reputation earned, and recent badges earned: A primary point of interest for most users; we made it more obvious by giving you realtime notifications and a top-level indicator that's not cluttered up with a lot of other notifications (like in the old "notifications" tab of the multicollider).

  • votes cast, revisions, and changes to favorite questions: Items that are kind of useful, but mostly interesting to a small percentage of power users. (Most users don't run into the daily voting limit, or make many revisions, or have many favorites.) Since they're rarely used, we removed them from the top bar; you can still get to them on your profile.

  • log out: A user activity. It does make sense to have this near a username/avatar like many other sites have. HOWEVER....

We're at the end of the list of items in the user menu, and the only things that are really justifiable to have there are a link to the profile and the logout link. We know that users want to visit their profile far more often than they want to log out, so making the avatar a dropdown with "profile" and "logout" links is a net loss; it adds an extra click for a very frequently used action. I don't have numbers offhand, but the vast majority of our users only rarely log out of our sites. Obviously, we aren't going to take away the functionality entirely, but I can't come up with a compelling argument to give top bar real estate to an action that's rarely used, or to create a new dropdown that yes, provides a more logical location for the logout action, but which also makes the more common action more difficult.

The placement is a little illogical at first, but it's not impossible to find, and once you find it, you know where to find it in the future. I was worried that it would be a huge pain point for our users, but we haven't seen a significant uptick in support requests on this issue, which leads me to conclude that users either aren't interested in logging out, or they are finding the link just fine on their own.

If you have a better suggestion for where to put the log out link, please post it; I'm afraid I'm not convinced that anything posted here so far is a better alternative, though.

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    I think there are several components to your statement that are not empirical. We don't know that users don't want to log out, and we don't know that users want to view their profiles "far more" than they want to log out (based, apparently, on one comment). Maybe there is hard data on this, I haven't seen it. The best information we have, in the way of data, is to observe UI trends all over the internet, which seem to dispute your conclusions. The lack of support tickets doesn't seem like a good indicator to use to drive user interface considerations. The picture is incomplete.
    – Chris
    Dec 16, 2013 at 23:57
  • 5
    I want to log out. I don't do it (which sometimes leads to embarrassing situations when I show my screen to someone who isn't aware of my SE activity and SE turns up in a Google search) because your $*(#$)^#($*^ logout feature is completely broken (it logs me out on all machines, which is highly inconvenient). You aren't seeing me use the feature because you haven't provided that feature. You can't know how often it would be used if it existed. Dec 30, 2013 at 0:17
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    As for a suggestion of where to put it, we've already told you: by clicking on or near the user name, where every other site on the Internet puts it. Dec 30, 2013 at 0:18
  • 1
    I wanted to log out and couldn't find the link nor instructions in the Help or FAQ. I had to leave StackOverflow to come here and search to find it. I don't know of another way to find this information.
    – Mike3d0g
    Dec 23, 2014 at 18:08
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    At the very least, there ought to be a log out link ANYWHERE on the user profile page itself. My thought process: I want to log out. Where is the log out link? Probably in the top-right corner, like on every site ever. Nope, no logout link. But here's my user avatar; maybe if I hover over it? Nope. Maybe if I click on it? Nope, that takes me to my profile page. Alright, well, surely there's somewhere to log out ON my profile page? WTF? Where do I log out?
    – user289068
    Apr 18, 2015 at 19:15
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    At no point in this thought process, by the way, did the thought ever occur to me, Maybe the way to log out of this site is to go to the dropdown menu I use to switch to different sites…
    – user289068
    Apr 18, 2015 at 19:16

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