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Why UX Is an Essential Element of Cybersecurity

Natasha Lane
Web designer transitioning to UX Designer and occasional writer. Java newbie.
・6 min read

User experience seems to be one of those buzzwords we come across just about everywhere, almost to a point that we lose sight of how important it is. A good UX can make or break a product, and it can ever change the fate of an entire company. And there is plenty of research to support that because according to Forester Research, better UX design can boost your conversion rate by as much as 400%. One of the first companies to realize the value of UX was Apple when it hired Don Norman back in 1993, who was not only Apple’s first User Experience Architect but also the person who coined the phrase “user experience”.

And as we can see, that move has worked out quite well for Apple. But, even though Apple is a B2C company, which means it has to worry about user experience from the get-go, B2B companies should also keep UX in mind, because they want their employees to make the most out of the software which has been purchased to improve some aspect of their business, such as cybersecurity, which brings me to my second point.

As many as 75% of organizations don’t have a good strategy for dealing with cyber attacks. That means that they lack the technology, security procedures, and/or resources to prevent potential cyber attacks and to mitigate them once they take place. On the other hand, all companies are very aware of the fact that cyber threats pose a huge risk to their business. In other words, poor cybersecurity can spell the end of a company. You will notice that both UX and cybersecurity have that one thing in common here: their impact on the well-being of any business is huge.

If that’s the case, why does it always seem like they are at odds with each other as if one has to choose between security and ease of use? Well, the good news is that they aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, they should go hand in hand, and here’s why.

Poor UX Hinders Cybersecurity

One of the first issues I have noticed in my experience as a UX designer is the users’ tendency to avoid security procedures which interfere with their workflow or browsing experience, and as a result, you have employees who are visiting websites which are viewed as risky by security standards, simply because they view all those procedures an obstacles in their user experience. And they are willing to jump over them at the expense of cybersecurity, which indicates that, apart from changing human nature, the only way to prevent users from taking security shortcuts is to provide a streamlined, pleasant, and hassle-free experience so they won’t need to.

While some industries, such as retail, are obsessed with UX and designing everything with their customers in mind, because they don’t want them going to another vendor, cybersecurity is primarily concerned with safety, with user experience being almost an afterthought. I always use two-step authentication as an example. From a security standpoint, it’s great, but users often find it complicated and time-consuming, whereas they would prefer a solution that is more user-friendly. The way to fix this would be to focus on improving UX where possible, without sacrificing any of the benefits of tried and tested security methods.

 

Co-Creation Means Never Having to Choose

Co-creation could potentially eliminate the false pretense that good experience and cybersecurity are polar opposites. Once again, Apple has been leading the way with Face ID facial recognition technology, and promising that’s it’s a safe method of authentication when you want to make purchases, and one which is a lot more smooth and convenient than entering passwords, PIN codes, or scanning a fingerprint. If a solution needs to be both user-friendly and secure, cybersecurity professionals need to be involved in the early stages of product design, and vice versa, so that neither security nor UX is implemented as a mere add-on.

 

This approach could be enforced by relying on agile methodologies, especially when it comes to cybersecurity, and making sure that the product is developed continuously throughout its lifecycle with iterative improvements. As I have pointed out earlier, users are prone to avoiding security procedures they find annoying or even to not downloading important security updates. In this case, security specialists could work together with user researchers in order to identify risky behavior patterns in users, and then use that knowledge to create products that tick both boxes: security and usability.

Integration of Big Data, UX, and Cybersecurity For Added Protection

Big data solutions are all the rage nowadays, and for a good reason, since they capable of making sense of large amounts of data which would otherwise be too complex to understand, as well as predicting certain events, ranging from weather to disease epidemics. But, the reason why big data software works is because its user interface provides users with the ability to explore the wealth of data, making it both functional and user-friendly. This approach, which echoes the late Steve Jobs’ sentiment that “technology is not enough” that and should be paired up with liberal arts and humanities, could bring on a revolution in the field of cybersecurity, with the help of big data and UX.

Because the cybersecurity landscape is so dynamic and diverse, it needs all the help it can get, and the integration of big data and UX could provide a crucial piece of the puzzle that solves a multitude of problems. For one, it could bring cybersecurity closer to pretty much every person inside the company, and not just a select group of professionals, which would ultimately bolster security.

Authentication Needs to Be Simplified

I have already mentioned two-factor authentication as an example of a great cybersecurity measure, but one which could benefit from improved UX. This, in turn, would benefit businesses. How so? Well, if your customer needs to go through a two-step authentication process which features a poor user experience, they will be more likely to opt for one of your competitors instead, simply because they get a similar product or service, but without the hassle. And this will put a dent in your revenue.

 

On the other hand, solutions which have a beautiful interface but an insufficient level of assurance make the company more open to cybersecurity attacks and data leaks that can cause problems on a much larger scale, ranging from reputational damage to hefty GDPR fines. Single Sign-In solutions are a great way to improve the authentication process without sacrificing security in the process because your customers would be able to log in using their corporate identities, which eliminates the need for further authentication. In addition to that, they are proof that easy and safe work great together.

 

Getting to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

User experience is crucial for the success of your business, regardless of the industry, because it helps you reel in customers. But, cybersecurity is still just as important, because it safeguards the well-being of your company. Fortunately, in 2019, you don't need to choose one or the other. You get to keep your bottom line without sacrificing safety. What more could you ask for?

 

 

 




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