Two weeks ago I lost my fantastic Nexus S at Awakenings Festival. Five years back this wouldn’t be such a big problem. But nowadays that small device contains my entire (personal and business) life. I had a track-my-device app installed, but as the network was overloaded by 30.000 people asking each other “Where are you?” on WhatsApp, it didn’t work.
So, the first thing I did was to call Vodafone to block my SIM card. The good news was I could pick up a new SIM card the next day, even though it was a Sunday. But I still had that annoying feeling of having lost all my personal belongings. It felt a bit as if I was walking the festival terrain naked.
Passwords suck. They are insecure, inconvenient bastards. But they are the best we have in 99% of the situation. I was concerned about the possibility of passwords (e.g.: my e-mail password) being extracted from the device. Even though the chances of someone being skilled enough to do that are very low, I wanted to be safe rather than sorry. So I immediately hurried to the office. My Saturday night was going to be awesome: changing all my passwords.
So, after 3.5 hours the clock hit 1.30am and I had finally changed all my passwords. But that’s not where the inconvenience ends. In the weeks to come you need to enter your new passwords everywhere you re-login. And of course it takes three tries before you realize that you’ve reset your passwords.
Google’s big detail
That’s when I found Google’s great reminder function. After entering my old password Google kindly reminded me that my password has been changed.
Apart from this nice reminder, it has another big benefit: if you didn’t change your password you can alert Google Support immediately to get your account re-instated.
This is absolutely a delightful UX detail. It may seem obvious, but mind you that probably about 1% of all the thinking, designing and building of an app is spent on ‘preconditions’ like login, logout and lost password functionality.
If you want to delight your users, make sure to spend a reasonable amount of time on these preconditions. And watch your logs. With the huge amount of users Google has it shouldn’t take long to recognize the pattern of failed logins after a password change.
Passwords suck, but they are probably going to stick around for quite some time. The least we can do is make using them easier.