Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Perimeter

2/8/2012
02:41 PM
Commentary
Commentary
Commentary
50%
50%

I'm Sorry I Called Your Baby Ugly ... But It Is

Your product's user interface may not be as appealing as you might think -- and it might just be jeopardizing its adoption

I like to use technology that is intuitive, solves a problem, and is a "fit" for me. On the other hand, I also like technology that is aesthetically pleasing. Some vendors have managed to deliver on my requirements, which is why I own several Apple products, buy the same brand of suit, and rarely drink domestic beer. But when it comes to security products -- namely the user interface (UI) of security monitoring products -- I am often disappointed and left wanting.

I speak to numerous vendors across different product sectors on a daily basis, so sometimes my disappointment in their UIs squeaks past my gritted teeth. I do my best to provide constructive criticism based on what I hear from customers, friends, and similar vendors, but the receiving vendor often takes offense. I understand. I called its "baby" ugly. Unlike an ugly baby whose appearance is usually beyond the control of its parents, security UIs can be made better.

Why make a UI more aesthetically pleasing? Well, for one thing, if a user can form a connection with the product, then he'll likely learn it quicker. We, as humans, tend to gravitate toward things we like and distance ourselves from those we don’t. If a provided interface is off-putting, how do you think that might impact the user’s learning curve and subsequent adoption?

Another reason is that many security monitoring products have become indistinguishable. I often say that you could take any SIEM vendor’s product marketing materials, strip any mention of its company or product name, and customers would have an extremely hard time assigning the correct company name to the associated materials. Since security monitoring vendors have done little to differentiate themselves, choosing instead to battle for competitive parity, why not innovate the often touted "single pane of glass?" Perhaps it's time to change the way we force users to interact with products.

I mentioned in my previous blog post -- "Where's My 'Minority Report' Dashboard?" -- that ever since I first saw the movie Minority Report, I’ve been waiting on the edge of my seat for a SIEM vendor to emulate the UI employed by Tom Cruise to solve crimes. I’m not saying that a UI of this nature would make a SIEM product more technologically capable than its closest competitor, but it would almost certainly add a bit of shine and differentiation in a product sector that’s quickly approaching commoditization.

Revamping a UI is not only an expensive undertaking, what with customer requirements gathering, design, development, and testing cycles, but it may also be considered a distraction from a vendor’s technical road map. So how do we balance some "UI bodywork beautification" without drastically impacting other core deliverables? Nearly every security product vendor leverages computer and, sometimes, electrical or mechanical engineering students in a work placement or cooperative education capacity. Not only does this provide inexpensive labor for menial tasks within the organization, but it may also serve to entice the student to come back to the company upon graduation -- providing a semi-trained resource already indoctrinated in the company's culture and processes. What I have yet to see, however, is a company bringing in design students to help overhaul, or even iteratively update, its UI. Sure, you could likely go to Starbucks, throw a rock, and hit five people capable of redesigning your product’s UI, but why not use students who are hungry to prove themselves in the real world? I assure you that the cost savings would likely be dramatic.

A balance between utility and aesthetics can be found, but vendors need to take a step back from their babies and objectively ask the question, “Is my baby ugly?” They also need to ask their customers, partners, friends, family (especially school-aged children), and strangers they meet at airports or in elevators what they might do to improve the UI of their product. They might be surprised to learn that they do, in fact, have an ugly baby.

Andrew Hay is senior analyst with The 451 Group's Enterprise Security Practice and is an author of three network security books. Follow him on Twitter: http://twitter.com/andrewsmhay.

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 7/2/2020
Ripple20 Threatens Increasingly Connected Medical Devices
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  6/30/2020
DDoS Attacks Jump 542% from Q4 2019 to Q1 2020
Dark Reading Staff 6/30/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-9498
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
Apache Guacamole 1.1.0 and older may mishandle pointers involved inprocessing data received via RDP static virtual channels. If a userconnects to a malicious or compromised RDP server, a series ofspecially-crafted PDUs could result in memory corruption, possiblyallowing arbitrary code to be executed...
CVE-2020-3282
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
A vulnerability in the web-based management interface of Cisco Unified Communications Manager, Cisco Unified Communications Manager Session Management Edition, Cisco Unified Communications Manager IM & Presence Service, and Cisco Unity Connection could allow an unauthenticated, remote attack...
CVE-2020-5909
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
In versions 3.0.0-3.5.0, 2.0.0-2.9.0, and 1.0.1, when users run the command displayed in NGINX Controller user interface (UI) to fetch the agent installer, the server TLS certificate is not verified.
CVE-2020-5910
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
In versions 3.0.0-3.5.0, 2.0.0-2.9.0, and 1.0.1, the Neural Autonomic Transport System (NATS) messaging services in use by the NGINX Controller do not require any form of authentication, so any successful connection would be authorized.
CVE-2020-5911
PUBLISHED: 2020-07-02
In versions 3.0.0-3.5.0, 2.0.0-2.9.0, and 1.0.1, the NGINX Controller installer starts the download of Kubernetes packages from an HTTP URL On Debian/Ubuntu system.