User Experience & Two-Step Verification Activation

It was a fairly regular Thursday at work, I logged into Amazon Seller Central to investigate a refund that did not process automatically.  I was greeted by its two-step verification activation screen that said my access will be disabled if I don’t activate by June.  I felt threatened by their disabling of my account so I had no choice but to activate.  I have activated two-step verification in other accounts before, I didn’t expect to encounter such a user experience nightmare.

The Activation Process

I clicked on the button to activate it and I was given a choice to either (1) enter my phone number and receive an sms text message/voice call or (2) download an activator app and scan the QR code it displayed.

I did not want to download an app so I picked the receive an sms text message option.  I got the code and submitted it, believing that I was done with the activation.  But no, I had to set up a backup system just in case my first verification method did not work!

It was a required step and I could not enter my phone number again and pick voice call – I had to download an activator app.

So you see, I actually had no choice.  I had to setup two additional methods of verification!  Amazon tricked me into thinking I had a choice.

But the last straw was, after setting up all these methods of verification, I was allowed to check a box that made Seller Central trust my work computer. Ultimately, it let me log in using just my password.

I felt like I had gone through all that trouble for nothing!

Security is Important

Don’t get me wrong, security is important especially when it comes to applications that handle money.  Amazon Seller Central lets you manage your seller account for amazon.com and your transactions on Amazon Pay.  It handles a lot of money and should be secured.

Two-step verification requires (1) something you know (your password) and (2) something you have (your phone that will receive or generate a code).  Authenticator Apps generate numeric codes for logging into specific applications you pair it with by scanning the QR Code during the setup of two-factor verification.

User Experience Improves a Painful Process

Setting up a security system is important, but that doesn’t mean you should forget the User Experience aspect of it.

Turbotax made the very complicated process of preparing tax returns easy by considering the User Experience.  And tax preparation definitely has more steps than activating two-step verification.  If Turbotax can make this experience less painful, then everyone should put a little more thought to their activation process

Suggestions for Designers of Two-Step Verification Activation Screens

  • Do not tell customers they have a choice when they actually don’t – it makes them feel deceived or lied to.
  • Explain the importance of security instead of threatening users with disabling their account if they don’t do what you want them to do.
  • Explain the fact that the two-step verification enables users to login to their account securely from any device – and then allow them to trust the device they set up the verification on so they don’t feel like they wasted their time.  The painful process you went through has a purpose!

I was surprised at how bad this Two-Step Verification activation process made me feel.  They threatened me with disabling my account, then lied to me about having a choice, and at the end of the whole process I didn’t need all those verification methods I set up after all.  I just wasted my time!

Of course, it wasn’t really a waste of my time.  It was an important process, but your screens should reflect that.  Take a moment to consider how your screens are making your customers feel. User experience is important too, don’t ever forget that!