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I was recently in a discussion with one of our developers about the usage of padlock icons (not on the https link) in user interfaces.

I remember encountering the icon in lots of different situations; on sign up/log in forms, while filling out/submitting forms with sensitive data, feedback once logged in etc. I have always perceived it as trustworthy and as means to enforce the feeling of security (even though a site is https) for your users.

Our whole site is https, but his main concern with implementing it is that he perceives the icon as 'shady' and dishonest towards the user; like: "Come on, we have a padlock, you can trust us. Give us your details, now!" And that the usage of the icon would scare users.

But how does this actually differ from the padlock icon in the https links for users that don't know what it means anyway?

And what are your opinions and experiences of the padlock icon in interfaces? Yay or nay? Is it dishonest? Are there any resources I can read up on?

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    Anecdotally, a non-technical relative recently expressed surprise when I voiced concerns about the credibility of a site where she had placed a purchase. She saw the HTTPS icon (a padlock) in her browser and believed it to be an indication that the site was generally trustworthy and safe to use. – George Cummins Aug 26 '14 at 20:31
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    I won't comment on the UX side of things, whether users will feel safer. But from an actual security perspective, systemic overuse (and abuse) of the padlock icon is a bad thing. Unfortunately, as long as others use it, the most beneficial course for your site might be to include one. – Bob Aug 27 '14 at 2:28
  • No. The padlock makes me click it everytime to see if the provider of the SSL certificate is a known provider [to me]. If I do not recognise that provider (and I do recognize a lot of them), I proceed with caution. – jay_t55 Aug 27 '14 at 6:16
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    I do see it as being more secure, though there are other factors that are more important to me. When I'm trying to pay for something, I'd like the page to have a clean (so a minimal amount of logo's and adds) corporate look, no glitching (PayPal's new page glitches when redirecting) and definitely no error pages. Seeing a padlock on a site that doesn't meet the other requirements, makes me doubt its security even more. – Vince Caregnato Aug 27 '14 at 8:29
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In general it should improve perception of security, but user perceptions are a funny thing. Consider example 8 on these surprising AB Testing results.

enter image description here

In this instance the security seal on the form led to a drop in signups, because the security seal icon was interpreted by some users as a sign they were about to pay for something.

The moral of the story is don't assume you know your users, so test out your theories.

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    That's really interesting point actually. It could also mean don't spam the place with icons or non-contextual "secure" images. Only do it where the information is incredibly sensitive like passwords, credit cards, SSN, etc. Thanks for that link! Was very informative – Majo0od Aug 26 '14 at 15:29
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    The submit button is smaller in the one with the seal. Maybe that made it more difficult to click, and many users gave up because of that (just kidding) – Thomas Aug 26 '14 at 15:37
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    Version A actually looks more visually appealing to me in general; sort of a less empty space, more "colors of the rainbow" sort of thing. But I can definitely see your point about a security firm's logo scaring people off. – Panzercrisis Aug 26 '14 at 16:52
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    An average user seriously can’t tell the difference between an actual cetification and this – kinokijuf Aug 26 '14 at 19:44
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    In this case the "security seal" looks like a brand name more than a generic icon. (Actually, on first glance the TRUSTe logo and the submit button together could be mistaken for one big advertisement - ads have buttons like that nowadays.) One wonders whether a simple padlock icon with the word "secure form" would have reversed that result. – thomasrutter Aug 27 '14 at 3:19
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Here's an interesting fact about people on the net, especially towards e-commerce.

Anything that looks secure gives the user confidence

It was noted in user testing that if a login form, checkout process, or anything with sensitive information looked secure, it made the user feel safer to proceed. This was done user testing specifically the checkout process when inputting credit card information. Obviously making your channel secure is one thing, but also making the user know that it is secure is another, and it is necessary, because it showed that there was a lot of abandonment in carts just because the cart didn't look secure enough.

I wouldn't say it is dishonest as long as your site is secure and the padlock is placed to visually enforce what's already done.

Smashing Magazine did a study about the "secure look" on the checking out process for online shopping. The padlock could be placed anywhere to enhance the feel of security, just make sure your site is actually secure, or else that is dishonest.

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    Do you have any studies you can cite that support this? Generally if you're referring to studies / testing then you should post links to such research. – JonW Aug 26 '14 at 13:24
  • Yeah give me a moment. Was looking for the article – Majo0od Aug 26 '14 at 13:25
  • @JonW he doesn't have to, because studies :-) – Pierre Arlaud Aug 26 '14 at 15:14
  • That sarcasm was refreshing @PierreArlaud :-p – Majo0od Aug 26 '14 at 15:20
  • @Majo0od Nonono it can't be a sarcasm, I put ":-)" in it :-) – Pierre Arlaud Aug 26 '14 at 16:49

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