Designing Security for the User


Taking a user-centric design approach to security software development

Ewa PignaBy Ewa Pigna

Ewa Pigna is Vice President of Engineering at LenelS2


The concept of designing security software and interfaces around common user practices seems obvious, but the reality is that a lot of software in our industry isn’t designed this way. In most security organizations, user interfaces and design workflows are designed and implemented by engineers. Naturally, these user interfaces reflect the structures that are hidden beneath. Unfortunately, the interfaces and workflows that make sense or look nice to an engineer are often at odds with how people actually use them. LenelS2 recognized this challenge many years ago and embarked on a multi-stage journey to understand how people actually use our products. We now design our software around those findings to achieve a user-centric design for our products. 

The User Experience Team

When implementing user-centric design principles, it’s important to consider the job or tasks that users are trying to accomplish. It’s one thing to create a beautiful, elegant design, but if that design isn’t in direct service of helping users accomplish their daily goals, it’s not successful by our metrics. Whether the user’s job is situational awareness in a SOC, helping check people in at a concierge desk or some other security-adjacent experience, it is critical to understand how the user actually performs tasks in order to design a product that suits their needs. 

So, before any user-centric designing could begin, we decided to invest in a user experience team. This team is comprised of user behavior experts who observe, interview and report on how real-world customers are using and experiencing our products. The team also includes contextual designers who are experts in understanding how people interact with systems and using that information to create mockups. Together, this team ascertained our users’ needs and natural work behavior to inform the final, superior design of products.

Rapid Prototyping

A key component of building for the user experience is the ability to rapidly create mockups and prototypes to get a continuous flow of feedback from users as the design evolves. The user experience team leverages that feedback to continue iterating. For any given product, interface or piece of software, there could be five, ten or even fifteen prototypes before a final design is agreed on. Each step of the way, users help the team understand how the changes being made affect their experience, which ultimately leads to a tested and successful design. 

Applying Lessons to the OnGuard Product Ecosystem

The user experience team has produced some incredible results so far. OnGuard’s transformation, thanks to our user-centric design philosophy, has to be seen to be fully understood. The overwhelmingly positive feedback is a major success, which vindicates our approach and pushes us to continue our journey. 

Every product we release going forward will undergo the same scrutiny that OnGuard did, and we believe the results will speak for themselves. We are dedicated and passionate about our users’ experience with our products. There’s a science behind it, and it’s our mission to understand that science to best address the needs of our customers. 

OnGuard User Interface Innovation


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