The Encrypted Web

UX and Design Evaluation

Encrypted Web Homepage
Encrypted Web Homepage

Background

As part of my duties as a UX intern at StrongKey Inc, I worked on a user research and website design project for the Encrypted Web, a cyber-security resource site. The purpose of this project was to better understand what developers would want to see in a cyber-security resource through user research, develop brand guidelines, implement feasible design changes and develop a plan for future content implementation and design.

Issues

  • The site and its content had not been evaluated with enough users in mind, so it was uncertain whether it would be appealing to the target audience (developers).
  • Few design decisions had been made (e.g. the logo) but were undocumented and used inconsistently on the website.

Goals

  • Investigate an ideal way to educate developers and cyber-security best practices.
  • Develop and document brand guidelines for the website and any future print material.
  • Create an implementation plan for future content based on developer feedback.

Initial Design Changes and Brand Guidelines

The first stage of this project was to go through the website, review the design and make revisions that I felt would be more suitable and then document it so that others can have guidelines to follow. Some of my key findings were:

  • Header formatting was inconsistent across pages and tag levels were often skipped.
  • Iconography seemed out of place with the overall design and color scheme.
  • The color scheme was fairly limited to blue colors, which was aesthetically pleasing but troublesome when placing links over colored backgrounds.

Based on the above findings and more, I developed the Encrypted Web Style Guidelines to document how any content on the website should look. There was some additional graphic design and illustration work incorporated into this, such as the logo alternative colors schemes.

User Research

Our user research was done with a group of 14 developers in 3 phases. The first was to browse and interact with the website while answering the following survey questions:

  • What do you like about the site (open-ended)?
  • What do you not like about the site (open-ended)?
  • Can you list 3 words to describe the site’s appearance (i.e. layout, graphics, colors, etc)?
  • Can you list 3 words to describe the site’s content?

The second phase was to answer some attempt some short information search tasks on the website and describe the experience. The tasks were:

  • Find what “FIDO2” is about. Did you find this information? How
    challenging was it to find (in your own words)?
  • Find our Github repository. Did you find it? How challenging was it to
    find (in your own words)?
  • Find other resources related to cryptography. Did you find this
    information? How challenging was it to find (in your own words)?

The third phase was a 30 minute focus group discussion with the same developers after they had filled out there surveys. Much of the discussion was left open-ended to allow participants to build off of each other’s ideas. However, I did offer the 3 discussion prompts to get people thinking:

  • What do you think the primary goal or purpose of this site is? Do you believe it achieves this goal?
  • How do you think you would use the information on this site?
  • Do you have any concerns about the content provided on the site?

Analysis and Implementation Plan

For the surveys, I wrote the responses in a spreadsheet and indicated the issues and suggestions they had. Combining the survey responses with the notes taken during discussion, I created a priority list of issues to resolve or look into further. The issues participants discussed ranged from minor changes such as altering the size of the search bar to broader issues such as changing the tone of how content is delivered to be more informative, professional and actionable.

I implemented many of the design changes myself in the time I had left at StrongKey, but for suggestions that focused on content and how it should be presented, I wrote an implementation plan. This plan largely focused on what content pieces should be created and how to set the tone for them and any other parts of the website.

Reflection

This was my first experience leading a UX evaluation on an existing product for a work project, as opposed to class projects. Overall I felt that it was a great experience. I was able to hone my research and design skills and leave StrongKey with better insights into their Encrypted Web target users as well as a plan to move forward on. I’m grateful to my supervisor and StrongKey for letting me take ownership of this project and offering guidance along the way.