User Experience Friction in Security is Real

Here’s how analytics can help manage it

There’s a delicate balancing act when it comes to access, the user’s experience and how much friction is added for security.

If there’s one area in software where we need to dynamically modulate user experience friction (UXF), it’s in security. And for good reason. While we always want to provide a great user experience with as few security check points as possible, sometimes there’s a need for additional authentication measures to ensure a user is who he or she claims to be. The trick is knowing when you truly need to step up authentication.

User experience friction – real and not-so-spectacular

According to Pfeiffer Consulting, UXF is basically the slow-down or friction that occurs when the user experience deviates from our expectation or knowledge.

When designing security features and introducing them into the user experience, we find ourselves in a delicate balancing act between security and accessibility. This tends to be a zero-sum game, with any incremental increase in security resulting in greater friction for the user to overcome.

Externalities like friction have been studied in economics, which provides us with at least some analogous wisdom. For instance, in the hypothetical scenario where we introduce incremental increases in production, what is the result? We introduce pollution, pure and simple. Efficient production comes at a cost.

Applying this to security gives us a corollary – if you want to have a secure user engagement, you’re going to have to accept some friction in the user experience. This brings us right back to the delicate balancing act of security and accessibility.

What if we could have it all – a great user experience with a stronger level of security – without the friction?