Scout Brody is executive director of Simply Secure, a nonprofit that works to make security and privacy technologies usable by technologically unsophisticated people by focusing on usability and human factors.
In a short, smart interview with the O'Reilly Security Podcast (MP3, Brody talks about how a humanistic, human-centered mindset is essential to producing usable (and hence, effective) security. Critically, she also offers excellent advice on how to bring these human-centered practices into your product and service design.
I volunteer on Simply Secure's advisory board, and really believe in this work.
A powerful tool you can adopt when talking to users is cognitive walkthrough. In essence, you ask them to tell you what they're thinking as they're thinking it. So, if you're going to do a cognitive walkthrough for an encryption program, you might say, ‘I'd like you to encrypt this email message. Please tell me what you're doing as you're doing it and all of the thoughts that occur to you.’ You might hear someone say, ‘Oh, wow, okay, so I'm going to encrypt. I don't really know what I'm doing. I'm going to start by pushing this button because that looks good. That's green. I'm going to push that.’ You can really hear the thought process that people are going through.
If you're in a more formal user study context, it can be useful to get the user's consent to videotape—not necessarily the person, but the screen—and see what they're doing because then you can play it for your colleagues. This is one of the most convincing ways you can make a case that your tool has problems or your tool needs improvement. Thus, just by videotaping people trying to use a tool and showing the challenges they face, you can identify ways to improve the user experience.
Scout Brody on crafting usable and secure technologies
My UK publisher, Head of Zeus, has published the official tour schedule for the British tour for Walkaway, with stops in Oxford (with Tim Harford), London (with Laurie Penny), Liverpool (with Chris Pak), Birmingham, and the Hay Literary Festival (with Dr Adam Rutherford). Hope to see you there!
My publicist just found an extra box of the cool promotional Walkaway multitools, and she’s generously offered to give them to the next 100 people to reserve tickets to the May 7th Walkaway event at Chicago’s Royal George Theater, where I’m presenting with CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY creator Max Temkin (current ticket-holders, don’t worry, you get […]
Carol from Cheapass Games writes, “In our continuing quest to bring back the very best classic Cheapass Games, we’re creating a new boxed set of Button Men, our strategy dice combat game. This time around, the characters will appear on cards, rather than pin-back buttons, but since they’re all 1950s era gangsters, the ‘button men’ […]
Bamboo has lots of uses beyond just being panda food. Things like bikes, roads, scaffolding, and musical instruments are made from the fast-growing grass. But unless you are participating in a tropical-themed LARP, you probably wouldn’t want a shirt made from bamboo stalks. So why do bamboo bed sheets make any sense? Because yarn extracted from […]
If you want to work in tech, but don’t have any desire to code web apps to help businesses sell things to other business, you might want to consider a career in cybersecurity. Judging from the apparent complete infiltration of Russian hackers in American cyberspace, it seems fair to speculate that there’s a major shortage of […]
All moms are different. But all moms like getting flowers on Mother’s Day, and that’s a fact (not, however a fact we can document in any fashion.) Instead of getting chewed out for forgetting to call her on the second Sunday of May, you can take care of it ahead of time with Teleflora’s flower […]