This article will teach you how to authenticate users with Django in a simple, quick, and secure manner. You'll also learn how to require authentication on certain pages of your website, and how to gracefully handle login and logout functionality.

The target audience is people who have had minimal experience with Django, and are aware of how Django works in a basic manner.

What Are We Building?

To demonstrate how user authentication works, we'll be building an extremely minimalistic website and user portal. We'll create a home page that directs users to the web portal (which is for authenticated users only). We'll create a login page, a logout page, and a basic web portal home page.

The goal of this article is not to teach you web design, or how to make websites, but merely to show you how simple user authentication can be with Django.

What's Needed?

  • Django 1.0 or later.

Create a New Project

Before we get started, create a new Django project. For the rest of this article, we'll be building a website for the fictitious company “Django Consultants”.

Be sure to create a user account when you run the:

python syncdb

Command, as you will need that later to test your login.

Determine URLs

There are many ways to design a website, but I prefer to build the URL schema first, then build the site to match the URL schema. So let's decide on what URLs we will need now. If you are going to build a real website and not just this simple example, feel free to add whatever else you need.

  • / - main page - Show the company logo and direct users to a login portal.
  • /login/ - login page - Allow users to log in.
  • /logout/ - logout page - Allow users to log out.
  • /portal/ - portal home page - Main web portal page. Should require authentication to be visited.

This should be sufficient for what we are doing.

Configure Django Settings

Below is my for the project. Make changes where necessary.

Take note of the LOGIN_URL setting. This needs to be changed to whatever URL your login view will be at. For us, this should be /login/, as that is the URL we decided will supply users with a login page.

Everything else is pretty standard. Nothing special going on.

Write Our

Now let's write our main file which will control what content is served based on our URL schema.

There are two things to notice here. First off, the login view:

(r'^login/$', 'django.contrib.auth.views.login')

Is defined as using 'django.contrib.auth.views.login' which is a pre-defined view for logging in users. We won't need to make any changes to this, as it does all of the Django magic to securely authenticate users.

Next, you'll notice that the view for our web portal will be part of a separate application:

(r'^portal/', include('portal.urls'))

You don't have to do it this way, but breaking your website up into independent applications is useful for keeping logic separated. For example, a login and logout are useful to have as part of your main site (eg: not in an application) because you may have multiple parts of your website that perform different actions but that all require authentication for users to access. In our case, one of these applications will be a user portal, so we'll be making it into a separate application.

Writing the Views

Now that we've defined the URLs for our site, let's go ahead and write the views that our main site will use. Here's the

Since the login page already has a view defined (thanks to django.contrib.auth), we only need to define our main page (which will tell users to go to the portal) and a logout page that allows users to logout anywhere on the website.

The main_page view is pretty simple, it just renders an index.html template (don't worry, we'll write all of the templates later).

The logout_page view calls the logout function on the request object. This magically logs users out and kills their sessions. After logging them out, we then direct them back to the main page of the website. You can always spice this up (by adding a custom log out page or something), but for simplicity's sake, we will just send them back home.

Create the Portal Application

Now let's create our web portal application. We'll call it portal and it will be used to display the portal homepage and other portal functionality (if you choose to add it):

Determine the Portal URLs

Again, let's quick write up a URL schema for our portal application. If you are designing an actual website, you'll want to add more functionality. For now, all we will do is create a single page (that will be accessed via /portal/) which gives users some basic options.

  • / - main page - Will display the home of the login portal and give users a menu of options.

Write the Portal

Now that we've come up with a schema for our portal application, let's implement it and write the

Nothing complicated here. Moving on.

Write the Portal Views

Now let's write our portal views:

This is where things get interesting. Since we decided a while back that our /portal/ page was going to require users to be authenticated, we are going to import the login_required function from djang.contrib.auth. This decorator allows us to specify which views require users to be authenticated to use! All we need to do is place


Above each view definition that we have which requires user authentication, and BAM. Everything magically works!

If you were to visit /portal/ without being logged in, the login_required function would see that you are not authenticated, and would read the variable value in your file called LOGIN_URL which currently contains '/login/', and would then direct you to the login page. Pretty awesome right? Full user authentication in only 1 line of code!

Creating the Templates

Now that we've done all the hard work, let's go ahead and write our templates.

To start, let's create all of the necessary directories and files:

Next, let's define a generic template (base.html) for our main pages to use as a generic template. Since I like to do things fancy, we might as well make it HTML5 :)

Now that we have a base template, let's create the main page of the website (index.html) as our main_page view renders:

At this point, we've got the basic templates done for the main page of our website. Mind you, they are very basic. The next thing we need to do is create a template for our user portal page. So let's do that:

This is a generic template which will be used for all portal pages. As you can see, there isn't much functionality except to return to the main page and logout. If you are developing an actual portal, you'll obviously want to add lots more features! Now we'll create the actual portal home page:

This page is special in that it uses the:

{{ user.username }}

Variable to print the user name of the logged in user. The Django authentication system passes the user object to each template that requires authentication (using the login_required decorator), that we can use to fetch information on the user. In this case, we are going to display a simple welcome message.

The last thing we need to do is create a template for our login page (remember that it uses the magical view that we didn't have to write?) Here it is:

Now, as you can see, we create a form which performs a POST to itself. This lets the django login view do its magic. The interesting thing here are the hidden fields and how they are processed:

{% if next %}
    <input type="hidden" name="next" value="{{ next }}" />
{% else %}
    <input type="hidden" name="next" value="/portal/" />
{% endif %}

The hidden field next is special to the login view. It determines where the user is re-directed to after logging in. Let's say, for example, that a user visits our homepage, and clicks the link there that directs them to /portal/. Since /portal/ requires authentication, it will direct the user to the URL /login/?next=/portal/. This GET argument is sent automatically by the login_required decorator to help inform the login page of where to direct the user after they've logged in.

Our code above says "If the user requests a page, and they are not authenticated--then direct them to the login page, and after they've logged in send them back to the page they originally requested. If the user simply visited the /login/ page directly, then by default send them to /portal/ once they've logged in.

This is the correct way to handle login and redirection in complex websites as it gives users the maximum amount of flexibility. Don't you just hate it when you try to visit a website and get into an important protected section, only to discover that after you've logged in you are redirected to the main page instead of the page you were trying to get to? You won't have that problem using Django's auth as long as you implement the login template as we did above.

Test It Out

We're done. So give everything a test. Go to your django_consultants directory and run the command

python runserver

To start up the development webserver. Then open a browser and visit http://localhost:8000/.

You should be greeted by the main page, and provided with a link to log into the web portal. So click the portal link, and since you are not authenticated, you will be directed to the login page.

Now log in using the username and password you generated when you ran

python syncdb

And you'll see the portal home page! Feel free to play around with logout / login / etc.

Where to Go From Here

For more information and advanced usage of Django authentication, check out the official documentation here: The best way to learn is to play around with things, test them out, and get a good feel for how everything works.


Hopefully this article has helped you understand how Django authentication works, and how easy it is to add secure authentication to your website without going through too much trouble. If you have any questions, suggestions, or anything else, leave a comment and I'll try to answer it.