Personal Protection

Early in 2020, I was given the opportunity to join a new product team that would be designing and developing McAfee's next-generation security solution. Our team's goal was to create a service that helps our customers secure their digital privacy and identity all in one place.

Finding New Audiences

Our initial target audience was our existing user base since Personal Protection was expected to replace our current flagship—Total Protection—sometime in the future. McAfee's existing audience is typically older users who are not always tech-savvy.

However, in order to maintain growth over time, we also wanted to appeal to slightly younger users in order to expand our brand and customer base. Based on our market research, we knew that younger audiences perceive antivirus as "insurance" and not as a necessity, while older, less tech-savvy customers feel it's still needed.

This gave us an interesting challenge at the beginning of the project, even before we arrived at our problem statement:

How might we design a service that appeals to a new, younger demographic of customers, without alienating our existing customer base?

Beginning early 2020, I worked with a dedicated team—one researcher, four product designers, and one design lead—to design a service that would act as a foundation for McAfee's next core offering, McAfee Personal Protection. Our objective was to empower people to secure their digital lives.

Evolving Threats

McAfee has historically been known for providing device protection and antivirus through applications like Total Protection, Safe Family, and more recently, Gamer Security. However, our research showed that these applications were not living up to the level of protection our users needed as the digital threat landscape evolved.

McAfee's previous flagship product, Total Protection, had been around for a number of years. It already has a fairly extensive suite of features focused on device-level protection, but to pivot its core offerings and transform it into a completely new product/service would take too much time and resources.

Identity Theft & Data Privacy

Threats to our user's security like identity theft and data privacy were becoming more frequent and our existing products didn't adequately secure these aspects of our users' lives. Especially when considering that the average person has either been involved in a data breach or knows someone who has.

In 2019 alone, hackers exposed over 160 million sensitive records—like passwords, medical records, financial info, and more—across nearly 1500 data breaches in the US alone.

Mobile Devices & Closed Operating Systems

Many mobile and computer manufacturers are also switching to closed operating system models—like Windows 10S and MacOS—or have already done so. And with users spending between 5-6 hours per day using their mobile devices, PC-based antivirus applications didn't meet the needs of our customers like they use to.

A Global Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these threats and behaviors as many of our users were now spending more time online at home which also increased the number of identity and data-related threats being detected.

Kick-off Design Sprint

This additional research helped us better understand who we were designing for and what they needed to be secure online. We used these key findings and split the cross-functional team—product managers, developers, designers, and directors—into groups and began running a short design sprint to ideate, test, and validate our core themes.

My team's theme was Privacy. After the initial brainstorming and sketching, we created rough wireframes for a VPN that would automatically adapt to their current physical location, network, and connection type to keep them secure without interrupting them.

We then created a quick survey on paper and took them to a local coffee shop so we could test these concepts with real people. We quickly learned that when it came to online privacy:

  • Everyone's top concern was securing and hiding sensitive information—like medical, insurance, and financial information—from others while browsing on their devices.
  • Contextual triggers worked well because: people don't want to be interrupted in the middle of an important task, and people want to see proof their protection is working.
  • Most people didn't understand more technical language. Clear and concise messaging helped people better understand what we were doing at that moment to keep them secure.

We quickly iterated on these findings and developed early prototypes for what a contextual VPN service might look and behave like. At the end of the sprint, all of the teams presented and began circulating their findings with the product team to begin integrating them with one another.

It was clear that across the various teams there were similarities between the responses we received. We synthesized the findings from all groups that participated in the design sprint and began putting together a list of Design Principles to help guide our decision-making process throughout the upcoming product development cycle.

Deliver contextual protection

Users strongly dislike notifications and alerts that interrupt them for trivial reasons—like McAfee's trial pop-ups on desktop—but also stressed they wanted to know about risks to their personal security as soon as they happen.

Continuous Identity Monitoring

Users want to know when their personal data and accounts have been compromised and want guidance on how to fix and secure that data.

Continuous Identity Monitoring

Users want to know when their personal data and accounts have been compromised and want guidance on how to fix and secure that data.

Smarter Privacy Protection

Not all users know what a VPN is or how to use them, but they still want to stay secure when browsing sensitive information—like banking and healthcare accounts—when they're most vulnerable.

Cross-device Control

Users are spending increasingly more time on their mobile devices and don't usually download personal apps on work devices. They want to access their protection anywhere they go, on any device to assure them they're safe.

Cross-device Control

Users are spending increasingly more time on their mobile devices and don't usually download personal apps on work devices. They want to access their protection anywhere they go, on any device to assure them they're safe.

Defining Personal Protection's Design Patterns

As a result of our research, Personal Protection's initial offerings included Identity Protection capabilities as well as a contextual VPN. In the future, it would also need to support a growing list of McAfee services which helped me plan ahead and define foundational design patterns that could scale as the product matured.

To help the team understand the proposed page structure, designs, and interactions, I worked in Figma to build high-level flow diagrams, design specifications, and mid-fidelity prototypes.

This process helped to create a baseline understanding of the concepts and scalability with our engineering and product partners working on iOS, Android, and Windows. This also allowed each section of the app to be built in a more modular fashion to give the team flexibility as the number of options on each page increased with complexity as the product grew.

Envisioning a New Visual Direction

Early in the project, I worked on developing the visual identity and direction for Personal Protection as one of the Product Designers responsible for our UI implementation. I worked with the Lead Product Designer to create a variety of concepts ranging from options that were "safe" and similar to the McAfee brand, to more blue-sky concepts that deviated from our branding at the time.

Ultimately, this initial exploration was cut short due to deadlines and other obligations. As a compromise, we used the safe option in the Alpha of the product so the team could continue to make progress.Later, we were given a dedicated period of time to re-imagine the visual direction of the app, as well as the resources to completely redesign the current implementation of the interface.Over the course of a few weeks, I was able to deliver new UI assets for every part of the experience and created a branched version of our Design System library to support designers as they iterated on their experiences.

This redesign was well received internally and became the new foundation for other McAfee products that wanted to adopt our design patterns. I created a set of visual design guidelines with the help of our illustrator to help teams quickly implement the new design guidelines within their existing products.

Measuring Performance

Just prior to the release our Experience Research team conducted a System Usability Score (SUS) to get a baseline of how Personal Protection's experience compared to McAfee's other flagship product—Total Protection—as well as other applications in the business-to-consumer (B2C) software industry.

The research team tested the experience in a high-fidelity prototype I created for the initial onboarding and product experience. To our pleasant surprise, the research team calculated an average SUS score of 91 out of 100 for Personal protection. The study was replicated 13 times and 95% of the time, the Experience Researchers found the score to be within 6 points of their calculated average.

This evaluation helped us first of all: understand that the experience was performing as intended, and secondly, helped us hone in on parts of the experience that were causing friction and drop-off.

Outcomes & Lessons Learned

Around the time of Personal Protection's launch, I was moved to a new Innovation team to help validate new concepts and technologies that would help our customers remain even more protected.

I learned a lot working on this product. The entire product development cycle was a marathon. Scaling our process, and creating a strong foundation for communication was a long and iterative process. However, bringing stakeholders into the process ended up empowering them and made them feel included in key decisions about the process.

This lead to all of us working closer to our product and development counterparts than we had before. Although I wasn't able to continue iterating on the product after this point, I'm incredibly proud of the work that was done and learned a lot from the opportunities given to me while working on Personal Protection.