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I need to protect the user's credentials on my website's login page.

The rest of the website does not need SSL. I don't sell anything or accept any credit card information (now or in the future) either.

It is important that user should not see any browser warning on the login page.

Is a free ssl from startssl appropriate for this scenario?

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I believe a warning message effects user experience, it is a unnecessary click and you should opt to use a ssl certification that does not create any warning messages.

You should always approach website design and functionality with the assumption that people know less than yourself, most people will not understand the message they are seeing and so many not even read the message and click off - creating a bounce before they even visit your site.

It's also the possibility that people who don't understand such warnings with associate the site with being harmful, Firefox for example gives a very alarming screen that is red and Id imagine a lot of people using Firefox would click away. For the sake of $10 a year its simply not even considering.

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Agreed. Do the right thing and pay for it. Think about it this way: if you had to show the site to a potential future employer, would they think you are following best practices? –  Kenzo Mar 30 '13 at 4:37
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Completely agree with bybe and would like to add one important point for you.

If you just want to secure form where you are collecting user's information go for rapidssl certificate which will not cost more than $8/year. Trust seal by CA can really help a lot to gain customer's trust.

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