Let’s talk about UI for a second, shall we?
I do a lot of stuff on the web. I view a lot of content in the average day, I follow a lot of links. Frequently the sites I go to need me to sign in to see something or do something. That’s fine, nominally.
The problem begins after I’ve signed in. Let’s take Flickr as an example. Some of the blogs I follow occasionally post pictures that aren’t entirely appropriate for those of a youthful mind. If I follow them back to Flickr, Flickr asks me to sign in to see them, as a way of insuring that little kiddies or those of delicate bearing don’t get all in a huff. As I said, this is just dandy. So I sign in, Flickr determines I’m an adult, and I see the questionable image.
Except I don’t. No, instead Flickr directs me to my home page, as the default location for someone who has just logged in. Now, I have to click back twice to get to the image’s page, and then refresh to get the image. Flickr has just told me to login to see it, then when I do login I don’t see it, I see my home page. This is less than ideal.
The appropriate behavior would be to take me back to the page which inspired my need/desire to login. I would say that the vast majority of the time, users log in at the page they’re interested at—either to see protected content, take an action on that page like leaving a comment, or otherwise to deal with an idea on that page. If they were interested in immediately going to their home page, they would login at that url or at the main page. You don’t go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/katiewest/2458048075/in/photostream/ if you want to sign into your account. You go there because you want to see one of Katie West’s photos. Likewise, you don’t go to http://twitter.com/jaycee to login to twitter. You go there to see who this jaycee person is and follow him or unfollow or block him.
So developers. Please. Don’t take me away from where I’m trying to do something.
(Update 9.20.2008: The twitter example seems to have been made moot with their last upgrade. Go twitter dev team!)