UX of Parent Child Account Settings

Posted By Debbie on February 12, 2018

I recently signed up for a service. My account is a child account to someone who passes me a discount on the service.

After my account was set up, I of course explored every page I could find. I went into settings. Account information had the info of the parent account, the guy who sets these up for others. I figured that was placeholder info and I should put my info in. After all… it’s my account!

Here’s what the account screen looks like without my info in it. Info blurred for privacy.

I figured oops, that’s the other guy who set it up. I’ll put in my information.

That ended up being wrong.

I ended up changing the master account to mine. I started getting emails a parent account would get about how all of the child accounts are doing. That clued me in to having done something wrong.

How do you keep me from making that mistake?

The easiest way to keep me from making that mistake is to not allow child accounts to change the settings on parent accounts. If those fields were disabled and the account were labelled as the parent (with customer-friendly copy), I wouldn’t have fought that. I would have left it alone.

Should we just write instructions telling you not to change it?

Any time you are thinking of giving people instructions it’s a clue to you and everybody that you have designed a non-intuitive interface. It should have been obvious to me that that was THE parent account… and I should have been unable to change it. Instead, I figured it was just placeholder information since Peter might not have known all of my details when he set things up.

Oh Deb, you’re just an edge case and we don’t have to design for you.

Am I the only child account of Peter’s that tried this? Maybe. I tend to be tenacious about forms and info. I tend to read everything. But somewhere there is someone like me making the parent account wonder why their account just went all wrong.

I’m not so special. And a good UX person would design with users like me in mind. Hey, someone may go into account settings and think they have to put in their info. Let’s make sure they don’t overwrite the master or parent account! Nobody who is user-centered would be like NO let’s leave it.

Can you think about a time you logged into an account, went into Settings, and the settings were for someone else’s account?

Your reseller, your middleman, your agency, etc… Usually those interfaces hide the middleman… and this one should too.

When I log in, I see a picture of Peter as my avatar. That gives me a distinct sense of my account not being mine. I thought it was just placeholder info but now I know it’s correct and stays.

I would design an interface to make sure to make a child account feel like it has its own account. Show me Peter where it’s relevant to see his account, settings, relationship, or the controls he has. But otherwise make me feel like this account is truly mine.

And keep me from making mistakes.