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Mariel Lettier
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User Experience vs User Security

09
Aug
2022

We’ve all used an app or website and become annoyed by its “extreme” security measures. Sometimes, it can feel irritating, whether the complex conditions to set up a password, tricky captchas, or the insistence to verify our phone number. Yet, as you know, there is a good reason all these exist. Often, developers struggle to find the right balance between good user experience and proper user security.  In this article, we’ll go over User Experience Design and User Security concepts. Furthermore, we'll focus on ensuring one doesn’t sabotage the other.

What is User Experience?

As the name hints, User Experience UX revolves around a user’s journey while using a product. For example, how someone reacts when interacting with a website or mobile app. But UX does not only involve the product itself. Aspects such as customer support and product-related sites are under consideration as well. Moreover, there are many facets to User Experience design. Among these edges, there are usability, visual design, and accessibility.

Why is User Experience Important?

Good User Experience revolves around making users happy. This means UX leads to better customer satisfaction. Thus, there are higher conversion and retention rates. Moreover, a positive User Experience fosters loyalty to your brand or product. For companies, good UX reduces development, bug-fixing, and marketing costs. So, investing in researching your target before developing your product is relevant. As a result, you'll provide a better product with a higher return on your investment. In short, User Experience affects your brand’s reputation, customer loyalty, and sales. These are all quite essential aspects if you want your product to succeed.

What are UX Design Best Practices?

According to Peter Morville's User Experience Honeycomb, there are seven User Experience principles.

1. Useful: A product must fulfill a purpose or a need.
2. Usable: Your product should be simple and easy to use.
3. Findable: Users need to be able to perform tasks when using your product.
4. Credible: Your target audience needs to be able to trust your product.
5. Desirable: Your product's visual aesthetics should appeal to the target user.
6. Accessible: You should consider all users' needs when designing your product.
7. Valuable: All aspects above must deliver value to the product's users.

What is Cyber Security?

Before we dive into user security, let’s look at the bigger picture and talk about cyber security in general. Cyber Security entails methods, technologies, and processes. These protect systems, networks, and programs from cyber attacks or unauthorized access. Cyber Security prevents unauthorized actions such as modifications, access, and deletions. This is accomplished by three security pillars: confidentiality, integrity, and data availability. We’ll look at specific cybersecurity features later in this article.

Why Cyber Security?

We all rely on computer systems to store data and perform daily transactions. Cyber attacks can have a plethora of unwanted consequences. These include the loss of essential data to identify theft and electrical blackouts. This can affect individuals or entire cities or countries. Ensuring these attacks are blocked is vital to protect data at all levels. Cybercrime is exponentially rising yearly, and keeping data safe should be a priority. Cyber attacks come with considerable economic costs and can be life-threatening. That was the case with the ransomware attacks targeting American hospitals.

User Security in Cyber Security

User Security is an aspect of Cyber Security focused on protecting users’ data and online activity. It also receives the names of end-user security and user-level security. User Security methods include biometric authentication and multi-factor authentication. We’ll see these in more detail in the next section.

User Security vs User Experience

Sometimes it feels like user security comes at the detriment of user experience. As a matter of fact, many users abandon a product or service due to frustration with the login process. However, it's all about finding the right balance. Also, it's about thinking of ways to cut the impact of User Security measures on the User Experience. Some experts, like Jared Spool, believe that if a product is not usable, it isn’t secure. We'll dive into capitalizing on User Experience to turn User Security less disruptive. But first, let’s look at the popular User Security measures that can hinder User Experience.

1. CAPTCHAs: CAPTCHA stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. It requires users to enter one or more words or identify objects in a group of photos to prove they are human. This helps reduce automated bot attacks but also comes at the expense of user experience. Not only do you have to stop and think to get through the CAPTCHA. You might also make a mistake and have to start the process repeatedly.

2. Obfuscation: “The username or password is invalid.” You have most likely encountered this message when making a typo. It can be annoying not to know which one you got wrong. Specifically if you don’t log into this product or service regularly or don't remember its details. Yet, this message prevents attackers from compiling valid usernames to target.

3. Automatic Log Out: Have you ever left your device for a few minutes to return and find that your session has expired? This is another security measure. It helps prevent unauthorized access. But, it may come at the cost of a good User Experience.

4. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Two-factor or multi-factor authentication may feel overkill. Still, it's proven to block most or all automated attacks. For instance, bulk phishing attacks and two-thirds of targeted attacks. It does, however, interrupt user flow.

5. Password Requirements: Password requirements have become more and more complex. So has the methods for a site to deem your password strong. You may have to include at least eight characters, numbers, and symbols, and use upper and lowercase letters. These passwords are often difficult to remember, and you are prone to errors when typing them. Once again, this hinders the User Experience.

As you can see, User Security measures can go against some of the UX principles we saw earlier, such as usability and credibility. However, as we’ll see below, there are ways to prevent this from happening.

Real-Life Examples of User Security

Ok, it all sounds great, but how does one manage this? Well, here are two examples of how these problems have been solved.

Biometrics

We all remember using a four or six-digit code to unlock our phones. Many people would use easy passwords like “1234” or “000000,” making them easier to remember. This was clearly a considerable security risk. However, today we have biometric authentication. As a result, we can securely unlock our phones with a touch of our thumb. There is also facial recognition, voice recognition, and eye-based authentication.

Find my iPhone

Another great example is Apple’s “Find my iPhone” feature.

You will need to access the Android Device Manager to find your phone if you have an Android phone. But, if you aren't already signed in on your computer and have two-factor authentication (as you should), it will be rather tricky to log in. Google will ask you to enter the code sent to your phone to verify it’s the account you are trying to access. But, if you lost your phone, this is rather impossible.

Apple, however, won’t force you to prove that you are you to help you find your phone. If you get worried about security, don’t stress! You can only access the “Find my iPhone” page. This means others can’t use this as a trick to access your data. Apple also sends you a notification to let you know someone is trying to access your account.

Conclusion

Coordinating User Experience Design and User Security can be challenging. Yet, it is far from impossible! Thinking about the user’s needs always pays off. We hope to give you a clear idea of how to make UX and User Security work for you—and your users, of course!