Cyber security: integrating secure code in UX design

You have the task of designing a beautiful interface for your company’s product. It needs to be user-friendly and optimized for a great customer experience. Awesome! But what about the cyber security requirements?

In this blog post, we’ll dive into what cyber security is and how it relates to UX design. We’ll also outline some strategies you could start using today to make your designs more secure.

What is cyber security?

Cyber security involves safeguarding internet-connected systems, networks, programs, devices, and data from cyber-attacks and threats. 

In 2022, businesses lost an average of $4.35 million because of data breaches, and there were approximately 236 million ransomware attacks worldwide in the first half of that year. 

Now more than ever, we need to keep our people, systems and data safe from unauthorized access or criminal use. Cyber security processes make sure that information stays confidential, intact, and accessible.

What is user experience (UX) design?

User experience (UX) design is the process used by design teams to create products that provide seamless user experiences. UX design involves the design of the entire process of creating a product, including elements of branding, design, usability, and function.

UX design keeps teams focused on who you’re building your product for – your customers – and what matters to them. It involves pinpointing and understanding a specific user problem and then designing products or services to address the problem in a customer-centered way.

How are UX design and cyber security related?

We’re changing the way we think around cyber security. Creating products and services that are secure-by-design and secure-by-default is becoming a requirement for businesses around the world. That means that security should be an integral part of any design process, including UX. When designing a product, there should be a balance between UX’s main priority – usability – and the dev team’s focus on security.

As UX design is all about creating seamless experiences for users, it seems only logical that security plays a part in that. Without secure code and a secure environment, your end-user will likely not have the best experience possible. Not what you want, right? Security programs need to be user-friendly, and at the same time, UX needs solid security input to make sure it’s fit-for-purpose. So it’s a win-win situation for both specialist fields.

5 ways you can design your interfaces with security in mind

To help you embed cyber security in UX design, we’ve rounded up five effective strategies for creating interfaces that prioritize data protection and user experience.

Make cyber security part of your foundation

Start by making cyber security an integral part of your business. Add it to the core values, encourage people to talk about it in meetings, write it on the wall – do whatever you can to keep it front of mind for everyone in your organization. If it’s a core business value, it’s much easier to convince others to create the time and resources needed to embed cyber security into the UX design process. 

Handle data transparently 

Clear and open communication is one of the key ways to build trust. So communicate openly about how user data is collected and stored and how you’re using it (or not using it). As a UX designer, you can make sure privacy policies, data collection notices, and terms of use are easily accessible in the interface you’re designing. This helps users to understand what happens with their data, and the transparency around it creates trust. It isn’t just great for UX but is also a legal obligation around the world, thanks to privacy laws like GDPR.

Make security elements easy to spot

So much of UX is visual, so security should be too. Create visual security cues, like icons, color-coded indicators or buttons, that show your end-users the way they’re interacting with your interface and their data is protected. This also helps to create a sense of trust throughout the user’s journey with your product. 

  • Avoid burying security in layers of menus
  • Turn on security options by default and make security “opt-out” not “opt-in”
  • Explain settings and features with security impacts in language your users will understand so they can make educated decisions
User-friendly security processes and permission requests

Make sure you design authentication elements such as login and password reset with both the end-user and security in mind. When you’re asking the user to give access to, for instance, the camera or location on their device, make sure that you clearly explain why it’s needed and how the access and permissions are handled.

Empower users to manage their data 

Design a beautiful, intuitive interface for updating passwords, opting in and out of notifications, and adjusting privacy settings. Give your end-users control of their own data and how they manage it in their account settings and communication preferences.

Balance where you choose “intentional” friction

UX is about reducing friction for users and creating enjoyable and intuitive experiences. Security controls often introduce friction, such as authentication checks, validation, and warnings. Examine each control and the friction it introduces and decide if this is needed and necessary.

A good example of this is Slack login – where they reduce friction by providing a magic link to avoid providing your password. The security remains intact, but the choice to reduce friction improves the user experience and also encourages users to maintain complex passwords (as they never have to remember them)

Wrapping it up

If you’re a UX designer and you want to learn how to weave application security through everything you design, our Pro Plan is for you. Or do you know someone else who could benefit from secure development training?

For only $10 a month, you’ll have unlimited access to all our Secure Development content, including courses and credentials, labs, monthly seminars, and our purpose-built online community.

Sign up to get started for free with full course content for 7 days, then choose a plan that suits — whether that’s the Pro Plan for full access, or our Free Plan.


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