The missing link: goodbye passwords, hello magic links
How Koan improved our customer authentication and signup experience
At Koan, one of our product principles is inspired by OpenView, which is the idea that companies should design a product with the end-user in mind and deliver value to customers before capturing value. And value within Koan means that we’re creating a tool that supports productive, repetitive behaviors around goals and status, that becomes an integral tool for users to stay in sync and work with purpose. Particularly with our product-led growth strategy, it’s imperative that we deliver high-value interactions at every stage of the product journey. And that includes the very first step: signing up for or logging into the product.
As one of the first experiences with the product, authentication should naturally be as frictionless as possible. Yet between regular requests to help reset passwords and relatively high dropoff rates in our signup funnel, we clearly had room to simplify, smooth, and secure our registration and authentication flows.
Enter magic links.
What are "magic links," and how do they work?
Magic links are simply that: one-click links that automatically direct you to your Koan instance fully signed in. Think of it as a simple, intuitive, secure alternative to password log-ins.
All authentication schemes attempt to prove that you are who you claim to be. With a username and password, the password (which presumably only you know, and which is easily forgotten) proves your identity. With Single Sign-On, it’s a third-party service. Magic links work by proving ownership of the email address you've just entered. This happens in three steps:
A user enters their email address in the application
The application generates a unique, secure magic link
The magic link is sent to the user’s email inbox
The user clicks the linking, proving access to their inbox and enabling a secure login to their account
Are magic links safe? Yes! And they remove the risk of users having compromised credentials or insecure passwords that can easily be guessed.
Magic links provide a great customer experience
Since implementing magic links, we’ve noticed several positive customer experiences. Magic links are intuitive, familiar, and simple for end-users. What’s easier than typing in your email address (which, hopefully, you know by heart) and then clicking a link?
They’ve also allowed us to deliver other benefits for our customers:
Safety and simplicity
As noted previously, magic links make accessing Koan easier and more secure. Never forget another password—just enter your email address and click the link to sign in. And once users have verified their email, they can now return to the Koan from anywhere on our website with a single click. If you're reading this blog or brushing up on OKRs in our content library, it's become much easier to log back in.
Easily switch between organizations
A common scenario for our users is to create a private "island" to try out Koan’s functionality before inviting other teams and internal stakeholders. With our new authentication flow, we’ve added an organization switcher to make it easier than ever to create and manage various Koan instances.
This feature is also beneficial for partners, consultants, incubators, and other “umbrella” users who are managing multiple accounts and need a quick and easy way to move between Koan instances. Once the users have verified their email address, we now list all organizations they're already a member of (if any), plus the option to create new ones.
Customization of app domains
One core tenet of product-led growth is the importance of customer voices in our product decisions. With this authentication change, we’re putting our end users in the driver’s seat, and allow them to customize their Koan app domain. This creates a unique experience for our customers and users can easily link their email domain to make it easy for teammates to join your organization.
Less friction, more magic
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," Arthur C. Clarke.
At Koan, we believe modern collaborative toolsshould feel like magic – simple and easy to use, and that makes working together better.
Most alignment tools feel nothing like magic. They're heavily top-down focused and meant to give execs the perception (whatever the reality) that teams are aligned. Top-down solutions tend to be symptoms of teams with low engagement, too much process, and the constant stress of shifting priorities, bad bets, and unclear strategy from the top.
There’s a better way to work together and we’re building it. We’re bringing a fresh approach to the alignment challenge, and it starts with how we approach our own work. Product is central to how our company operates, with every product decision made with the end-user in mind.
Stay tuned for more exciting features and product-led blog posts that provide a behind-the-scenes look at how we’re building Koan. As always, if you have any questions about what we’ve covered in this post, feel free to send us a note or reach out on Intercom. And if you haven’t already signed up, get started managing your goals and reflections using Koan absolutely free.