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Usability lab

Usability Lab

- Improving the usability of open source circumvention and digital security technologies -

The Usability Lab aims to increase user safety and promote practical internet freedom by working with developers and technologists to improve the usability of open ­source circumvention and digital security tools.

There are many open ­source software projects that aim to help people around the world – activists, journalists, and everyday citizens – communicate in privacy and security. Unfortunately, few of these software­ development teams have the capacity or expertise in-house to make tools that are truly usable. These usability challenges hamper tool adoption, or may cause misunderstandings for users about tool functionalities, and subsequently may give users a false sense of security.

OTF’s Usability Lab, including service provider Simply Secure, will provide usable security audits as an in-kind resource to OTF-funded projects and other internet freedom technologies. These usable security audits expand the traditional definition of a “security audit” to include human factors. Whereas security audits seek to identify potential vulnerabilities in the design and implementation of the software code, a usable security audit will examine, for example:

  • Interaction “pain points” – interactive elements that cause users frustration or confusion, or which prevent users from making effective use of the tool altogether.

  • Emotional engagement – other elements of the software that leave users with a negative feeling. This may include purely visual aspects (i.e., the “look and feel”).

  • Mismatched mental models – cases where the user’s understanding of the security guarantees provided by the tool do not match reality.

  • Communication breakdowns – missed or mismanaged opportunities for users to receive information from the developers, or vice versa.

  • Are you an Internet Freedom and Human Rights technology tool developer in need of an audit of your tool’s usability? If so, start by completing this form now.