This is partially "UI", but probably falls more into the realm of "UX"; I'm not sure if it'll fit in here or not.

One of the applications that I have runs on the iPad. The information stored within it can be considered private (information about gifts you're going to give, for example). A number of my users have requested that I provide some way to lock the app so that nosy children and spouses can't dig up the dirt.

However, I'm struggling with the notion of how best to provide the ability to unlock the program if the person forgets their password or keycode or whatever. I could easily just say "hey, tough potatoes, sucker, no ticket, no show!" but that just seems mildly cruel.

I could have the program email the password to the user, but assuming someone has physical access to the iPad, they presumably have access to the Mail application as well.

Any thoughts on ways to keep the application secure without totally cutting the person out if they forget their password?

  • Every time I hear someone talk about "porn mode" in browsers and they don't want to mention "porn" specifically, they mention "what if you're buying someone a gift?" - I had to laugh when I read your example here. :)
    – Rahul
    Aug 31, 2010 at 13:07
  • :-) No, really, it's an app that has significant use for people who want to obsessively track the gifts they give or intend to give. thedossierapp.com Aug 31, 2010 at 20:29

3 Answers 3


I would follow the design patterns of the device. I've had this discussion a lot, but I believe that the ipad is not designed to be a shared device like a computer.

If a user is worried about privacy on the ipad, I think they should lock the device itself. I don't think it is up to the app developer.

There are exceptions, like 1password, but generally I think this is the way to go..


How about the standard "security question"?

When signing up, have the user choose a question (first pet's name, mother's maiden name, etc.) and supply the answer. If they forget the password, they only need to answer the question.


If you're only concerned about nosy children and spouses, maybe you can get creative with the security mechanism.

Display an 8x8 grid of of icons and ask the user to pick his three favorites. To unlock the app, you have to pick those three favorites again.

  • Always put the icons in the same positions, to take advantage of spatial memory.
  • Perhaps build in a fudge factor: Pick 5 icons, including at least 2 of your favorites. That would allow some mistakes and throw off spies looking over your shoulder.
  • If you don't enter the right code, display a "foiled intruder" message and disable the app for an hour, then a day, then a week.

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