Internet users expect the sites they visit to offer a secure and user-friendly experience. They trust companies to maintain SSL certificates, to use compliant payment services, and to protect their information from hackers. Every site is vulnerable to some level of attack. In addition to employee training and conventional network security tactics, many companies use UX design to keep site visitors safe. Learn why the “security by design” approach is best for website creation.
Understand the Connection
Site security and UX are related because often designers make decisions to decrease user friction that end up causing security concerns. An Information Security Breaches Survey found that eight out of 10 security breaches came from human error. Staff made mistakes on mobile devices in 82% of large organizations that created data breaches.
Designers want to create a user experience that minimizes the number of steps necessary to complete a task, doesn’t slow the user down and keeps users immersed in site content. Often, they overlook security concerns and create security risks unintentionally.
The intent is to make things enjoyable for the user and profitable for the business. Instead, the user has critical information stolen, and the user and business face potential financial repercussions. Designers put every effort into conveying a brand’s trustworthiness, value and uniqueness. When there’s a security breach, the world finds out that brand didn’t keep its website users safe.
Anytime users connect to a network, they open themselves to security risks. If your website processes or provides access to financial information like credit card data or identity information, if you create content some view as disputable, if your site code is old or if you outsource your IT, you may be more vulnerable to a breach.
Where to Find Risk
Any point where your site interacts with users, there’s a potential for security compromise. Here are some of the most common points of concern:
- Loading pages containing dynamic content
- Performing a product or location search
- Filling out contact forms
- Adding to and checking out with a shopping cart
- Creating a new account
- Logging in to an existing account
With each action, users communicate through the internet with servers. Designers focus on making each of these steps as simple as possible for site visitors and sometimes fail to add the necessary layers of protection.
Sometimes a variety of vendors and programmers have supplied different portions of site code. Sites may use software from multiple sources. Sometimes designers alter a previous administrator’s code, unaware that they removed layers of security.
Web security should be built in from the beginning. Instead of adding security measures at the end, stakeholders and designers must agree from the planning stage that it be embedded in every aspect of design. If large portions of code are outdated and it leaves users open to security breaches, sometimes it’s better to discard them and start over. If websites and applications need to be redesigned from the ground up, it’s better than exposing organizations and users to the risk of security incidents.
When UX teams work with security experts, the two groups can create a site that is safe and user friendly. Designers can start protecting security by using the same approach they do with everything else: start with the user.
Analyze Your Audience
Start by evaluating users and their goals. What do they need to accomplish? What steps will they have to go through to complete each task and at what points will they enter data that needs to be protected?
Consider how apps collect data and store the steps users take to complete tasks. If they share data from within the app, will it contain personal information that could be used against them if it’s intercepted?
Break down the information your site collects in each step. Analyze whether it’s personal or financial, B2B or B2C.
E-commerce businesses scrutinize site load times, color schemes and graphics to convey trustworthiness. Designers must focus the same amount of effort into showing users that systems and applications are safe. If part of your design protects user security, let them know about it.
Work with each business and organization to develop an explicit public security policy that details the importance of website security and the steps each organization takes to protect users from attack.
Make sure each page that involves an exchange of data is protected by SSL encryption. Some designers fail to secure pages that don’t involve financial information because they fear the way SSL encryption will affect page performance. However, any slight affect encryption might have on speed is worth it to prevent security issues. The green lock in the address bar tells users your website is safe, and your organization cares enough to protect them.
Help Users Understand Precautions
Most users fear hackers stealing their sensitive information, but they don’t understand how it happens or what they need to do to protect themselves. Just like designers must convince stakeholders security is important in every aspect of web interactions, it’s helpful to explain security precautions to users.
Designers analyze how users feel about products and processes to create websites that move users toward a goal. When it involves security, users often feel unspecific fear. They realize bad things can happen, but they’re not sure how to protect themselves. Embedding security from the beginning turns websites and applications into security blankets. Point out each feature so users recognize them for the protection they offer.
When security requires users completing an extra step or going through a more complex login procedure, tell them why. Provide a brief explanation of how security measures benefit them using layman’s terms.
Instead of referring users to a long security document, provide brief statements with each interaction. This is where designers bring their magic to tedious security processes. Use copy and graphics that make each interaction feel like a conversation with someone who cares.
Once users complete each task, use graphics and text to commend their commitment to security and tenacity throughout the process.
Address Frequently Breached Areas
Hackers target signups and logins because they are some of the easiest access points. Making a secure login form isn’t as easy as it sounds. Work with the product side of your website design team to make the following improvements:
- Don’t use email addresses as usernames. It’s easy for the user to remember, but it also increases the risk of a security breach. If hackers access a user’s email, they could potentially acquire admittance to every system connected to that address. Let users know if they forget a username, the website will send it to their email address, but avoid using the address itself as part of the login.
- Require strong passwords. Some of the users who worry most about internet security also log in with their email address and a simple or basic password. Incorporate password standards and use check boxes to let users know as they have completed each requirement.
- Use two-factor authentication. If your system contains sensitive information, this layer of security will alert users of a potential breach and often stops hackers from trying in the first place.
- Design controls to limit sharing and access. If sharing creates a security risk, set defaults to private. Adjust settings so administrators and users can select who is able to share content. Limit data access to only allow users to view and share what they need.
Provide better UX for every user. At every step of the process, focus on the user’s needs and goals. At the top of the list is their need to stay safe while browsing. Designers can protect the user while still offering an immersive online experience.