Security is the Opposite of User Experience

May 09, 2018

One of the annoying truisms that I have learned is that security is the opposite of user experience. Nowhere is this more evident to me than with Google and Gmail. For some reason I seem to be logged out of my Gmail account nearly once a week, if not more. This has grown frustrating because I recently installed an app called Kiwi which is supposed to make Gmail more usable by enabling some MacOS native features with the mail client. Unfortunately it means 1Password will no longer auto-fill the login. Therefore I find myself going through extra steps to log back in to my Gmail accounts on an almost daily basis.

As I build software I continue to learn that security is the opposite of user experience. In order to verify someone’s identity or make sure their data is more protected I almost always need to make a trade-off that makes an app more difficult to use. It makes it less likely they will use it. When making a game or other small stakes app this is not a big trade off. But when the stakes are either someone can apply for a summer job or not, the calculation is different. Suddenly this security is impacting their livelihood.

Ultimately I am excited by companies like Apple that are managing to make security part of the user experience. TouchID makes logging in to most apps seamless. FaceID makes it even easier. The multi-factor authentication integrates across all devices and makes it easy to confirm you are the one trying to log in to a device. As I build apps I try to think about how I can make them more like that.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.