Why Open ID needs Marketing Strategy

Jan has had a bewildering experience using Open ID. If you’re not familiar with Open ID, it’s a tool that could provide one login system for the whole web (as we all get tired of remembering logins) in a secure and safe way.

I’ve said it in the past that I embrace the idea, but the implemention is too geeky. I’ve even suggested that Facebook will have their lunch, as there’s mass adoption, it’s aimed at consumers, and if they ever launch an identy widget, they win.

Jan’s suggestions to improve the Open ID experience are as follows:

“1. Redesign the OpenID home page for consumers. The page’s main content should contain a brief explanation of OpenID in consumer-friendly terms, along with a giant Get an Open ID button. Move all the developer material behind a Developers button.
2. Design an end-to-end process for getting an OpenID from a service operator’s site. Since most services won’t care which provider the user uses, let these services send the user into a real flow for picking a provider, getting an ID, and most importantly coming back to the original service to use the new ID. When they get back to the service, the new OpenID should be prefilled.
3. Give the above flow a sidebar titled “Do you have a blog?” that explains that, if they have a blog on LiveJournal, TypePad, etc., they can use that for their OpenID. A link in the sidebar should shunt the user into a page that has them pick their blog provider, then tells them what the (blog service dependent) form of their OpenID is. The flow should then return the user to the service they started on (again, with their OpenID prefilled).
4. Organize the list of providers around factors that can actually influence a user’s decision. Consider offering provider ratings based on ease of use, uptime, etc.
5. Refine reference designs for the complex range of cases that come up in using OpenID with a service. E.g., define the expected behavior and terminology that should be used when a user tries to log in with an OpenID but does not already have an account with that ID.
6. Define guarantees that services should offer to users in the event their OpenID provider goes out of business.
7. Build an organization that can do real usability testing on this service with real consumers.”

Other observations: Perhaps fixing the text heavy homepage so it’s aimed at consumers, the second sentence says “For geeks, OpenID is an open, decentralized, free framework for user-centric digital identity. OpenID takes advantage of already existing internet technology (URI, HTTP, SSL, Diffie-Hellman)“. That’s not a way to encourage adoption. The first sentence doesn’t even have a value proposition for the technology. Perhaps segment the homepage for two different users, with two different experiences. Visual demos would be great too.

There are tons of great products created by great people (I see them all over the valley, and at pitch labs) but if they don’t have a great way to get the word out, or encourage adoption many of these products get stopped at the shipping dock. Understanding the community that will adopt in the masses and really drive forward to the tipping point is important. Building the product that they want and deserve (and letting them know about it) is key.

I want to see this problem fixed, so these are just my suggestions, as I see improvements in this area, I’ll be happy to promote OpenID.

(and by the way, I’m not just throwing stones, we get a healthy dose of feedback at our company, and we read and absorb it all, even these helpful ones)

Update: Since then, this video has appeared, which may be a good step in communicating the value of Open ID, good job! (link via Marshall)