Creating an effective website can be a time consuming and laborious process, but when done right the results can lead to high traffic and excellent conversions. The site should be easy to read and navigate, the information contained should be well organized and accurate, and maybe most importantly a user should enjoy using the site. This is where user experience (UX) design enters the picture. Designing a site to “just work” the way a user “thinks it should” can seem like a feat of witchcraft, but effective UX design could be the piece of the puzzle that could make or break a conversion.
There are many important aspects to consider when creating a UX design plan, but I’d like to cover one item in particular that may become more of a consideration to web designers in the near future. That item is Transport Layer Security (TLS) and in some cases its predecessor Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). TLS and SSL are internet protocols that allow encrypted connections between web browsers and websites. Websites that utilize TLS and SSL are marked by the “HTTPS,” rather than “HTTP,” prefix in their URL. Many modern browsers also use a padlock icon to denote secure connections in addition to the HTTPS prefix.
Encryption is important but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to implement. Correct implementation of TLS and SSL encryption is key in keeping data protected online. Look for cloud hosting providers that provide TLS and SSL services, and be on the lookout for those that offer them for free. SingleHop is one such example of a hosting provider giving their customers free TLS/SSL certificates just for using their services. Free encryption certificates are definitely the exception as opposed to the rule at this point, but organizations like Internet Security Research Group and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are working to provide free, trustworthy TLS certificates through programs like Let’s Encrypt, to help further cybersecurity.
TLS and SSL encryption afford websites many benefits, including the ability to offer secure payment options (think PayPal) and protection from a variety of cyberattacks and would-be hackers. Encryption also gives visitors the added security and peace of mind that their interactions with the website are secure. That last bit, giving users peace of mind, is the bit I’d like to focus on. Users that know their data is secure and encrypted on a website will have a better experience visiting and interacting with a website. But, I’ll grant you, not all users know when their data is being encrypted or understand why their data needs to be encrypted, but that could soon change.
Recently the Google Chrome team has floated the idea of adding a visual warning to websites that don’t use TLS or SSL encryption. A warning that tells users “Watch out! You may be vulnerable when you visit this website!” Such a warning has the potential to scare users off or at the very least make them think twice before entering sensitive information. This change in my opinion is a good one, but one that should be on the minds of UX designers everywhere. In the future using encryption could (and more likely will), be an important consideration when designing UX.
It is my sincere hope that UX designers lead the charge to bring encryption into the forefront of web design as we move into 2015. Keeping users secure and data encrypted has always been important, but as we continue to move into a completely connected world the importance of data security will only increase.