My Role: UX Researcher | Duration: 3 Weeks | Project Status: Completed
Cyber security professionals are faced with an exciting and continuously emerging market that still deals with quite a bit of fragmentation in tooling; having 100 tabs open is nothing for a cyber-security analyst but having to jump between dozens of different tools to follow the trail of hackers on a cybersecurity investigation. Enter Pulsedive, an open-source cyber security threat intelligence website that provides transparent intelligence in a free, accessible website. They have a large range of services and tiers to their memberships but ultimately provide value to anyone looking for credible data or the latest news in cybersecurity. But cybersecurity professionals have a bad habit- due to time sensitivity of investigations and an established reliance on dozens of tools to accomplish one goal, they will spend little to no time learning additional functionality of a website beyond the obvious and most used capabilities. So Pulsedive’s problem was how to redesign a website for optimal efficiency and user experience with a thousand highly specific uses cases of the product?
Our UX team sought first to identify one solid use case for the site and streamline and optimize the redesign for that use case without taking away necessary functionality needed to complete other use cases. As the old adage goes, “if you try to solve a problem for everyone, you end up solving it for no one.”
How do you learn about cyber-security in three weeks? Talk to people in cyber-security! Over the course of this project, we talked to 19 cybersecurity professionals in 5 countries around the world to learn about their needs as a cyber-security professional as well as their needs of Pulsedive. We started with user interviews, building an understanding of what these professionals need and want from their OSINT platforms. We used these insights to move into design, where we continued to speak with users through usability testing to constantly improve our website redesign.
Overall, we learned that users are using Pulsedive for the robust search engine capabilities and were frustrated by the “rabbit hole” pages they could accidentally navigate to in the site without easily being able to retrace their steps. We combined the different types of pages a search could take users to into one results page with all the information centralized and organized by type. Secondly, we learned that cyber-security professionals consider their time to be precious and didn’t want pre-populated data or news streams in their face without asking for it; so, we reorganized the structure of the website where functionality was prioritized first. Finally, our clients wanted us to research buildable query searching, a functionality of the site that allows users to add multiple data points to a search to narrow down the results with more specificity. While this wasn’t a use case for any of the users we spoke with, we gave the query search option prominence in the redesign and gathered research on alternative ways the search could behave.
Scope of Work
Our project consisted of a website redesign on a standard 1400 px screen and an expanded research report on the behavior and use case for buildable query searching.
Process (Explaining the UX Framework at a High-Level)
For our project methodology, we first focused on designing the right thing through business and user research; we then transitioned to designing things right through heuristic evaluations, usability testing, and prototyping. Below, we have included our UX Methodologies at each step in our project:
UX Methodologies: Our Process from Start to Finish-
Discover: Competitive Research and Analysis
- Competitive Matrix: Used to define where Pulsedive stood in the minds over our users to better help our team focus our redesign on the space Pulsedive dominates
- Features Analysis: Identified that Pulsedive is one of few sites that currently has no help documentation for their users (solved for in our redesign) and that users desire visual tools like star charts and spider maps for highly complex data correlation (addressed in future steps).
Define: Information Architecture Evaluation/User Research
- Usability Test (Current Site): Our team focused on qualitative feedback on user’s experience on the current site and if they were successful at finding the data they are looking for
- Heuristic Evaluation: Identified navigation, communicability, and learnability as major problems our team went on to address through the redesign.
- Design Studio: Ideated with clients on design solutions based out of user research and established scope stemming from website software constraints
- Usability Testing: Tested our mid-fidelity prototypes on five users and measured user task success, time on task, and difficulty rating.
- Hi-Fidelity Prototype: Culmination of business research, user research, heuristic evaluation, and testing into an interactive hi-fidelity prototype of the proposed website redesign
- Buildable Query Searching Report: Ten individual case studies gathered to show specific use cases of the website and how user’s are collecting the data that they need.
Problem Space Statement
Scenario: Cybersecurity professionals use multiple cybersecurity tools to manage large amounts of data. Due to the number of tools they use, they struggle to promptly find actionable data to improve security measures.
Persona: As a result, Tim sticks to the multiple tools he knows will get him the information he's looking for. In short, Tim is a program-hopper and will not take the extra time to learn that one website could offer everything he needs.
Goal: How might we help Pulsedive users streamline their research to find data that will help them improve their security posture?
Goal of Research
Our goal for business research was to understand Pulsedive as a company, where they compare to competitor’s in their users’s minds, and where are the current gaps in their offerings that may serve as opportunities to grow.
Competitive Matrix: Our team spoke with users and asked them what other tools they are using to accomplish their cyber-security goals, then cross-referenced those with Pulsedive to identify which tools were truly fulfilling the same user needs as Pulsedive.
Features Analysis- Competitors: Our team went on to analyze the features offered by each of the competitors listed on the matrix above to see if there were any glaring opportunities Pulsedive was currently missing out on or any areas that Pulsedive was excelling in that could be better communicated to users. Ultimately we found that Pulsedive was lacking in help documentation that could better help users understand and navigate the site. While we found that Pulsedive also doesn’t currenly provide data graphics on their website, that functionality falls outside of where Pulsedive wants to focus as a company.
Goal of Research
Our team wanted to learn both about the needs, goals, and pain points of cyber-security professionals as well as how they are currently interacting with Pulsedive’s existing website.
User Interviews: We first conducted five user interviews and identified the following actionable insights-
Usability Tests (Current Site): Once we better understood what cyber-security professionals are ultimately setting out to do, our team ran usability tests on Pulsedive’s current site to see how intuitive the design was and where users were running into issues. We learned the following:
RESEARCH » DESIGN (Intersection)
User Interviews >> Design
Usability Testing>> Design
Journey from Existing Site to Final Prototype
Usability Testing and Design Changes: Mid-Fidelity
We tested users ability to successfully (and timely) complete the following three tasks through our mid-fidelity prototype: 1) find out more information about an indicator of compromise, navigate to the news section of the website and find an article that was of interest, and pivot off a data point to learn more about it. While our overall results were positive, we did have three major takeaways going into our final design iteration.
- Bulletin is not an intuitive name for the news section
2. Side panel navigation, which already existed within the prototype, was not findable for users, causing them to think that the information was disorganized and hard to navigate.
3. Users do not like being shown pre-populated data, even when given categories for context.
Usability Testing: Hi-Fidelity
As you can see below, results drastically improved from round one of usability testing to round two, with all five users having direct success on each of the three tasks and having such positive feedback on the prototype as a future iteration of Pulsedive’s website. Our team was also able to identify some concrete design takeaways from this round of testing that we established as next steps for the project following the end of the course.
Expanded Research Component- Buildable Query Searching
While conducting our additional case studies on use cases for buildable query searching, we were able to identify (from speaking with a current user) another way the query search COULD function.
The current functionality of the query search on Pulsedive involves entering in queries one at a time, pressing enter to have them add to the query and drop below the search bar, with the results updating as you add queries.
One user we spoke with told us she was more familiar with querying where she types an individual query, presses tab, and the query populated within the search bar with an option to remove it. Once all her queries are added to the search bar, she is able to press enter to enter the entire query search at once. This behavior helps her understand that the search is buildable as opposed to being completed after one query is submitted.
Again, as this is just an example of how one Pulsedive user expects search queries to perform, we definitely recommended our client conduct more user research and testing before implementing a design of this nature. However, we wanted to make sure to provide Pulsedive with an example of another form of buildable search querying to serve as inspiration for further design iterations.
- Website Redesign Prototype:
- Buildable Query Search:
- Conduct usability testing on hi-fidelity prototype with above changes implemented
- Launch website redesign and collect user feedback