Redesign Account Recovery Flow

My roles included Product Design Lead and Research Collaborator

Goal: To develop a seamless account recovery flow to help users sign back in to the product as smoothly as possible.

The complexity of the account recovery flow was a source of user frustration, increased the cost of customer service, and generated churn on the platform. To address this, the  flow was streamlined so that it is more straightforward and offers users an opportunity to sign back in to the product as smoothly as possible through password-less authentication.


Authentication can be one of the most significant sources of friction for users. This usability barrier can impact the adoption of the product, increase the burden on support operations or product administrators and, ultimately, result in churn. However, improving the whole authentication flow requires a lot of investment and time. We mapped out the areas for improvement and prioritized them according to user pain points. The account recovery flow was the biggest pain point; as such, it was addressed as a priority.

Insights and user pain points

Around 200K of Spotify’s monthly active users request a password reset each day, and many of them churn due to complicated account recovery flow. The original flow required users to manually switch between three platforms. In addition, it didn’t guide users who have no emails (10 million users) or have other issues to any possible solutions.

“I don't remember my password. It is difficult to remember passwords for many different sites. You need to hold many combinations of letters, numbers, and special characters in your mind.”— Marco, 28, Accountant

“I go through the log in flow like once every one or two years, due to special reasons; for example, when I upgrade my phone or when I start using new devices. However, I don’t remember my log in details.” — Madeleine, 32, Doctor

“It took me forever to get back to the app after forgetting the password. I'd rather not put my brain through all that stress.” — Shelley, 21, Student

Design principle

  • Simple and Smooth: Keep the recovery process as simple as possible.
  • Minimize Friction: Minimize cognitive load and the number of steps customers are required to complete to get back to the platform.
  • No dead-ends and helpful instruction: The experience should always feel personal and relevant. Show the user that we’re caring  and want to help them if they are experiencing difficulties using our product.

  • Proposed Solutions: The password-less recovery flow

    We followed the principles and created solutions to offer simple and helpful instructions that guide users who have trouble signing back in to the product and ensure the process is smooth and straightforward. The password-less authentication was implemented implicitly, and we believe the future of authentication should be password free.

    • Inform users that their credentials are incorrect in clear way and suggest a way forward. There are various reasons causing login issues. We aimed to provide generic and exhaustive information to users who have issues signing in. If users fail to log in more than two times, a helpful message will be popped up to direct them to take necessary actions.

    • By using the right tone of voice and positive graphics, we can reduce users’ frustration and encourage them to continue to the next step.

    • No dead ends—the user can either try again or go down our suggested path.

    • Suggested path: We help you choose the best way to recover your account. Do you remember your email? Username? Anything? Use this to determine best way forward.

    • Whenever the process is over, the user is encouraged to log in using their new credentials (or are automatically logged in with password-less authentication).

    Results and next step

    After implementing the new account reset flow, the rate of success for users to sign back in to the Spotify mobile app increased to 6%. A usability study was also conducted, and it verified that users were satisfied with the new flow.

    The first approach was to implement the password-less authentication in an implicit way; however, the usability tests indicate that it is suitable as a primary login method.

    Learning: Little things matter

    This project gave me an opportunity to think beyond beautiful screens and return to basics; I learned that a small change makes a difference. Account recovery doesn’t sound like a fancy term; however, it sets the foundation for most online services.

    I led this project end to end, from collecting insights, building understanding, mapping out the potential areas, setting up our scope and priorities, implementing, and running usability study through to validating the solutions. It was a great experience for me to work closely with the tech team to understand the structure of authentication process, the customer service team to learn our users’ pain points, and the content strategist to refine the communication channels for our users.