Security and Usability – Always off on a tangent?


I am sure a simple google search on the above topic should return100s of articles right from issues related to infrastructure security to physical security 🙂 …I believe if designers put a little bit extra effort in treading this carefully, it can make a big difference for end users.

A recent experience that made everyone in my house go crazy is here.

It all started yesterday night at 11 PM with a sharp beep followed by a loud warning saying “Low Battery”. “Loud” meaning even if you tightly close your ears, you will still hear it ….:)

I was hearing this sound first time and after a little search around identified that it came from the “Smoke Detector”.  Obviously, it was going to run out of battery and hence this warning ….

But the sad part was this nuisance went on and on with this message “Low Battery” for the entire night beeping every minute not letting any of us sleep (except my children as they are least bothered on anything happening around)

I know as a user of the device, I have to ensure the battery is replaced otherwise I am putting the entire house under risk but a warning of this nature can’t be “killing”

Looking back, What could have been done differently without a big compromise on security in this small little device?

  • A reduced frequency of this warning (once in an hour or half an hour) so that at least we would have slept before it makes the next warning 🙂
  • Designed with a battery specification that is commonly available in house like (AA or AAA)
  • A button to reset and post reset it triggers only after a day so that it ensures I am notified but also reminds me later
  • etc

I believe we encounter these challenges in applications from CRM used in corporate settings to mobile applications that we use every day.

I believe a little bit of extra effort to design for security without compromising on usability would definitely make it a winning application

(The story went on till today evening (At some point we got used to it) as finally, I got time to go around to get a replacement battery)

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