Many of us are probably used to seeing or hearing the term 'Two factor authentication' or '2 Step Verification' process by now, although we are probably more familiar with the interaction involved (i.e. enter email, and then enter in generated token in another device).

For people that are just beginning to use computers and mobile phones, I am wondering if there are examples of ways to describe this process in a way that doesn't sound technical and whether other terms have been used for this.

I have noticed that Google uses natural language to explain why this is needed and how to complete the process, but still uses the 'technical' term to describe the process.

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    "2-factor authentication" is not the same as "2-step authentication". Please check this support.apple.com/en-us/HT207198, for example. Commented Sep 24, 2018 at 6:10
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    @MadalinaTaina for the purpose of the question, I am looking for examples of how 2 step verification is implemented, and this could be a 2-factor authentication or some other process that there is a good design pattern being used. But yes you are correct in that they are not the same thing.
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 9:34

2 Answers 2


You could describe it as a door with two locks. They have to unlock the larger deadbolt (password) and the door-handle lock (text message code) to get into the account. The locked door analogy would help non-technical users associate Two-Factor Authentication with account security; and help them figure out that both need to be unlocked to gain access.

  • +1 This is a very nice analogy! Have you seen this idea implemented anywhere? And how do you this this could work as a UI design concept?
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Sep 20, 2018 at 21:01
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    @MichaelLai I haven't seen this implemented anywhere. In most application that I see 2FA being used they opt to load a new page or refresh the login with the new form for 2FA. Applications could apply this idea by visually displaying locks until they 'unlock' the next form. imgur.com/a/v4xFos3
    – Mike W
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 2:13
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    @MichaelLai I think you could look into game design for inspirations. I don't have any specific examples in mind right now, but I'm pretty sure you can find some lock mechanisms with two steps. And games are usually required to have a nice visualization for that stuff.
    – Big_Chair
    Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 12:26
  • The two locks could be: A key you carry, and a key hidden in the hidden place only you know (e.g. under the plant pot). Each has it's own benefits (against different threats - stealing vs neighbours knowing). However it may cause a miss-association with the 'spare key' analogy. Commented Sep 21, 2018 at 13:56

2 factor authentication should be 2 seperate things. Most commonly "something you know" (password) and "something you possess" (cellphone, rfid card, keyfob, fingerprint, etc..).

So, to build on the door analogy, the keys would only be 1 factor. A second factor could be a big bouncer who checks your ID or membership card, etc..

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