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Professional Knowledge: Design

Simply Secure provides design professionals with developmental resources, emphasizing privacy and ethics. We consider use cases, emerging issues, and identify new areas for research

From Paper to Infinity Whiteboard

Inspiring Creativity and Digital Collaboration in Online Design Workshops

Retail Apps and Data Collection

San Franciscans surprised us with positive feelings about data collection by retail apps, which they considered beneficial to their communities.

Lessons from Architecture School for IoT Security

IoT security needs UX design to appropriately manage complexity. Architecture school teaches how to design for an IoT context with privacy in mind..

Security is a “Design in Tech” Trend

Designers are urgently needed to help build products and services people trust. Here’s how design professionals are starting to embrace security.

Essential Non-technical Skills for Working in Security

Building trustworthy technology requires more than technical expertise. Interaction design, service design, brand strategy, and writing are needed.

Blink and You’ll Miss It: Notifications in an AI World

I’ve been enjoying the videos from AI Now, an exploration of artificial intelligence and ethics hosted by the U.S. White House and NYU’s Information Law Institute. Co-chairs Kate Crawford and Simply Secure co-founder Meredith Whittaker put together a program focused on issues of social inequality, labor, and ethics in artificial intelligence. AI inspiration Looking at the program through a UX design lens, there were abundant design opportunities to make AI systems more effective, transparent, and fair.

How to Fight Phishing: Security for Designers

My last post examined the concept of phishing, which is a type of social-engineering attack to con people into divulging private information like passwords or credit card numbers. When you look for advice on how to protect against phishing, most of what you’ll find is tired wisdom such as “check the email carefully” or “never click on links in emails.” This type of advice assumes that the burden is entirely on would-be victims to protect themselves.

Learning from Drones

Last week, I encountered discussions of drones in two unimaginably different contexts: in an academic presentation at USENIX Security 2016 and on the TV comedy Portlandia. As distant genres, they offer different perspectives that have equally important UX implications for privacy preservation. In the opening keynote of USENIX Security, Dr. Jeannette Wing examined the trustworthiness of cyber-physical systems, which are engineered systems with tight coordination between the computational and physical worlds.

Your Software Can Help At-risk People, Too

Web browsers are utility software; they are designed to work for all people. Not only must their features meet the needs of average members of a population, they must also work for people with special needs. As Firefox says on its mobile accessibility features page, the browser has been "designed to meet the needs of the broadest population possible," but "sometimes that is not enough." In particular, software that is built for everyone can too often leave people with specific security or privacy needs at risk.

Compelling Color

Great user experiences are born through the hard work of professionals with a variety of skills. As illustrated by the UX unicorn we've seen before, there's a lot that goes into what we call "design" or "usability". The skills and responsibilities of an effective UX team. Originally published in Building an enterprise UX team by Rachel Daniel (also on LinkedIn), UX Director at MaxPoint. Used by permission. Looking at this unicorn illustration, it may be tempting to dismiss visual design as a "

Meeting Users' Needs: The Necessary Is Not Sufficient

Building great software requires understanding what users want and need. If you’re building privacy-preserving software, this includes understanding the privacy threats that your users face. One of the participants in Ame’s NYC study. When Ame set out to talk to people in the New York City neighborhoods of Brownsville and Harlem about their experiences with mobile messaging, she wanted to amplify voices that are frequently underrepresented in the software community. (Many thanks again to Blue Ridge Labs for helping her connect with study participants.

Developers Are People, Too: Supporting Cryptographic Agility

On Monday I had the pleasure of speaking at a Workshop on Cryptographic Agility and Interoperability held at the National Academies by the Forum on Cyber Resilience. The assembled group of academics, policy-makers, and practitioners touched on a variety of problems around the practical application of cryptography in production software. The main focus was on the challenges and benefits associated with cryptosystems that can be updated or swapped out over time (and thus exhibit “agility”).

Chatbots, UX, and Privacy

Chatbots, or conversational programs that simulate interactive human speech patterns, are a hot topic in UX right now. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently claimed that “bots are the new apps”, and that they are the interface of the future for tasks like ordering food and booking transportation. In San Francisco, tech elites use a multitude of oft-parodied services like Wag to find dog walkers and Rinse to have their laundry done.

Design Matters: 2016 Design in Tech Report

For the past two years John Maeda (whose previous roles include Professor at the MIT Media Lab and President of the Rhode Island School of Design) has issued a Design In Tech Report. This influential analysis, which Maeda presents at SXSW and has also been picked up by outlets like Wired, has helped Silicon Valley understand how design is valuable to companies and their customers. It is situated in the context of venture capital, as Maeda is currently Design Partner at VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.

Tradeoffs In Seamlessness: The WhatsApp Update

This look at UX design decisions from WhatsApp’s 2016 end-to-end encryption update shares lessons for designers and developers.

How UX Excludes or Includes

Software communicates its values via its user experience (UX) by making some actions easy and others harder. For example, mobile apps can be configured to automatically opt users in to location sharing, and require people to dig through multiple layers of menus to opt out. This design choice reflects the developer's belief that it's ok to collect location data about users without asking their permission. But this is just one example; values are encoded in software in many ways beyond default settings.

Notes from the Internet Freedom Festival

I really enjoyed my time at the Internet Freedom Festival in Valencia, Spain. I was inspired and humbled to meet so many talented people as part of a global event about internet freedom. From powerful conversations about privilege to UX design jam sessions, it was a great week. With more than 600 people registered and 160+ sessions, there was more terrific discussion than I could be part of, but here are some themes that stuck with me.

Learning Lessons Where We Find Them: Analyzing Facebook's Privacy Checkup, Part 1

This is the first in a short series of posts looking at Facebook's "Privacy Checkup" feature. This installment examines why even privacy advocates who avoid social-media sites should take time to understand it and related user experiences. The next installment will go into depth critiquing the feature itself, taking lessons from the user experience that are useful to any designer of privacy or security-related software. As a reader of the Simply Secure blog, chances are good that you spend a fair amount of time thinking about privacy and data security.

Features – Like Backdoors – Are Forever

The news this week has been full of stories about Apple's resistance to a court order demanding they build a custom backdoor to a phone used by one of the San Bernardino suspects. While I will leave deep analysis of the legal situation to experts of that domain, I believe that this instance holds valuable lessons for all software teams. One lesson in particular helps us understand why the creation of such a backdoor would inevitably become dangerous for innocent users.

Awkward! QR Scanning + LinkedIn Spam

Messaging with friends and colleagues is rewarding – but sharing contact information is awkward. Many people want to preserve their privacy by carefully controlling who gets their contact information, and choose not to broadcast their email address or phone number via a public Facebook or Twitter profile. Instead, they choose to strategically share their contact info. It's awkward to navigate the social and UX challenges in this sharing. Looking at how WeChat and LinkedIn handle this problem exposes two different kinds of awkwardness: mechanics of sharing and social agreement about what permissions you get as a result.

Video Roundup

It’s always great to attend security and privacy conferences in person. But in cases where you have to miss an event, online videos of the talks can be a great way to stay current with the ongoing conversation. Art, Design, and The Future of Privacy As I promised back in September, the videos of the event we co-hosted with DIS Magazine at Pioneer Works are available online. The DIS blog had a great writeup with summaries of the different panels, and you can find transcripts over at Open Transcripts.

Notes on the O'Reilly Design Conference

Last week I went to the O'Reilly Design Conference and enjoyed learning about emerging UX trends. The conference was full of high-quality presentations on UX practice. Here are three of my favorite talks. The Many Minds of the Maker Knight-Mozilla Fellow Livia Labate shared examples of how designers can overcome barriers to learning code. Her experiences from the pragmatic (no you don't need to learn Rails) to the philosophical (to be good at something, be bad at it first) are relevant to people beyond designers.

Some Of Our 2015 Favorites

2015 was our first full year in operation, and we’ve come a long way! Looking back at the past twelve months, here are some resources that we’ve found to be particularly useful (or entertaining). Let us know your favorites on Twitter! Ame’s picks Thinking back on 2015, I’m really glad to be part of Simply Secure and for the opportunity to be an evangelist for design. I’m thankful for resources that make design easier.

Straight Talk: New Yorkers on Privacy

Our research on New Yorkers’ use of mobile messaging offers actionable insights into how to design secure communication tools for a mass audience.

Maximizing Meaning in Empty States

It can be hard to communicate about security-related features with users who aren't already security experts. From word choice to the level of detail included, it's easy to overwhelm people with information, leave them scared, or bore them to indifference. For many applications, one major challenge is finding the right place to communicate. Empty states – screens in your app where there is no actual content to display – are a great opportunity for this communication, in part because they frequently occur when the user is first starting out.

Mind The Gap Between Mobile Apps

Users of the Facebook iPhone app were recently surprised by a new feature offering to “Add the last link you copied?” into a status update. Many people did not expect to see a complete URL that they had put onto the clipboard from another app, without explicitly involving Facebook. Christian Frichot discusses iOS security concerns with this feature, but I also consider this to be a UX design failure. Copying a link in Safari (left) makes it appear in Facebook (right).

When Closed-Source Software Wins The Day

We prefer to use open-source software as a matter of principle. We believe that putting software code in the open is the best way for the public to build trust in it. You might find it curious, then, that we choose to foster communication and community through a tool like Slack, which is closed-source. (Note: you can request to join our Slack channel by sending a request to slack@simplysecure.org.) Many software teams that build privacy-preserving tools host similar spaces dedicated to communication with volunteers and users.

Catching Issues in Evolving Interfaces

Thinking of design as not only a product but a process can help complex products stay secure as they evolve.

Briar: Notes From An Expert Review

Researchers who want to evaluate software interfaces have a number of tools at their disposal. One option for identifying obvious and significant problems is an expert review, which is often used to catch low-hanging fruit before performing any kind of user testing. Expert reviews employ usability heuristics, which systematically explore potential problems with a piece of software by applying patterns for good design. With some guidance from UX-research veteran Susan Farrell, we recently performed expert reviews of a few open source tools for encrypting communications.

Lessons from Architecture School: Part 3

This is the third and final installment in the series on Lessons from Architecture School: Lessons for IoT Security. You can also read the first and second installments, or download the presentation. Thank you to the audience at Solid Conference for good questions and lively discussion. Homes Are More Than Houses Shop houses are a type of vernacular architecture built throughout Southeast Asia. Vernacular architecture is built using folk knowledge and local customs, typically without the use of an architect.