Designing accessible security questions | by Ashley | Nov, 2023


A trauma-informed approach.

As UX designers, accessibility advocates, and professionals in the field of design, our primary goal is to create products and services that are inclusive and user-friendly. Today, we’ll explore a crucial aspect of user experience that often goes unnoticed but can have a significant impact on our users, especially those with unique access needs — security questions. And more broadly, how to think about questions we ask users.

This article will shed light on the challenges security questions pose and offer insights into designing better trauma-informed questions that respect users’ diverse experiences, in particular for those living with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of early childhood trauma.

Many of us are familiar with the process of updating passwords and providing answers to security questions. These questions serve a vital purpose: identifying users who may forget their login details. However, the problem arises when these seemingly innocuous questions inadvertently become barriers for certain users.

Consider the following scenario: the user is presented with the following list of security questions and required to select one option.

A list of security questions which all ask questions related to childhood
UX of the security questions I was prompted with, which sparked this article

The question “What is the name of your favourite teacher?”. At first glance, this appears to be a straightforward question. However, let’s delve deeper. Imagine a user who recalls Mrs. Smith as a fantastic teacher, providing valuable feedback and support. But, through therapy and healing, fragmented memories resurface, revealing a darker truth — Mrs. Smith was extremely critical of the person’s work, nothing was ever good enough and they were ultimately a source of fear and anxiety.

The user might not have updated this perception or visited these memories for many years. Now, they are compelled to update this and revisit traumatic memories, all the while trying to sift through many memories to determine who their favourite teacher might have been. This experience can be dysregulating and triggering. The impact is a residue that could subtly or overtly affect their entire day, leading to memory issues, reduced concentration, shame exhaustion and physiological


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