A usability case study on a file-system level encryption solution that leverages the cryptographic and key management features platform to protect unstructured data.
My goals for this UX study were to:
SafeNet ProtectFile provides data security with fully automated encryption of unstructured data contained on file servers and network shares. Working together with a SafeNet KeySecure appliance, SafeNet ProtectFile combines encryption and access control policies to protect the folders and files residing on servers, and network shares.
After spending a week getting familiar with ProtectFile and wireframing in my sketchbook, I started to detect patterns within the UI.
Current customers were recruited for interviews. Six users were in their late 30s and mid 40s years of age and two users were in their 20s. Four of them did not use ProtectFile on a regular basis, but were familiar with the product. Two users used ProtectFile in their daily workflow.
In order to understand the audience I was designing for and help me better associate the issues around a single user, I sketched up a persona to represent each user I interviewed and their individual use cases.
I plotted points based off of the main ProtectFile functions. My findings explored the current work flow, the challenges the user faces, and identified possible solutions for each item. In addition to an executive summary, I created empathy maps, and information architecture diagrams for reference.
All of the users reported that they all had trouble getting ProtectFile up and running. They also stated that at some point they all experienced difficulty understanding the status of their files. Lastly, their interactions indicated that they did not know how to go about recovering from encryption failures.
The lack of flexibility in the encryption process and intuitive system feedback were major problems.
I narrowed these points down to:
- Pain Point 1: ProtectFile install puts a lot of dependencies in the sequences of events.
- Pain Point 2: Users do not have real time system expectations. It is not clear if the system is slow or if there is a blocking error which would render migration incomplete.
- Pain Point 3: Users do not have access to fixes for bugs that interrupt product functionality/performance.
The diagram below is an overview of the typical user interactions that helped me identify my pain points.
To put it bluntly, a significant amount of coordination is required from all of the users. Tasks go back and forth between roles: application team, key administrator, operations team, and potentially one task is blocked waiting for another team to act.
My solution: allow visibility flexibility based on user needs that also adhere to security policies and provide appropriate amount of system feedback in order to help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors.
Drawing on features of our key management platform, I came up with the proposed solutions below:
Pain Point 1: First ProtectFile install puts a lot of dependencies in the sequences of events.
Proposed Design Change 1: Automate the installation process.
Pain Point 2: Users do not have real time system expectations. It is not clear if the system is slow or if there is a blocking error which would render migration incomplete.
Proposed Design Change 2: Include performance status when appropriate expressed in plain language that precisely indicates the problem encountered.
Pain Point 3: Users do not have access to fixes for bugs that interrupt product functionality/performance.
Proposed Design Change 3: Provide real time issues status web page, troubleshooting guide and online chat support, and increase patching for all impacted versions.
I mocked up several different options for the user interface, as well as a new resources portal for both internal and external users.
I also sketched new layouts for unresolved states with contextual help and prompts for a smoother on boarding process. Choosing the best option that took into account technical and business constraints, I tested my prototype on 6 new users.
Many people expressed confusion and frustration when using ProtectFile. I learned that even though ProtectFile is extremely reliable for encrypting files, it was not leveraging its full potential due to lack of user need consideration. To account for ProtectFile’s shortcomings, users have had to patch together workflows, escalate their problems to service engineers, or switch to a competitor.
Although there is a long way to go with this product I believe that by focusing on the pain points uncovered and empower our users with the right tools we will not only be able to retain our current customer base, but also feel great for making their lives easier.