SMS Messaging and The End User Experience

Whenever you're introducing two-factor authentication, the end-user experience is exceedingly important.  According to Seth Rosenblatt at CNet in his recent post “Two-factor authentication: What you need to know”:

It definitely adds an extra step to your log-in process, and depending on how the account vendor …has implemented it, it can be a minor inconvenience or a major pain.“

Unfortunately, the user experience is often overlooked by general SMS API services. When adding messaging to your service, make sure to consider the following:


It is a far better and more personalized experience if you can deliver SMS messages in the user's native languages and dialects. It is not a trivial exercise to create and maintain translations of the 80+ language and dialects of the world.

Message Encoding

Just because you have translated your SMS, does not mean it will arrive in the desired character set. Double-byte characters need to be encoded to arrive in the proper format. Unicode is the code to rule them all, but it still needs to be translated into a protocol that computers understand. In Europe, that protocol is GSM, in Japan that is Shift-JIS, and most other language are covered by UTF-8 and UCS-2.

User Experience/Interface

Make sure that the entire experience is integrated seamlessly into your website, with proper instruction that explain to users why and how they will be verified. Your provider's client services organization should provide UX/UI best practices to avoid frustrating your end users.

End-User Adoption

Develop a compelling messaging strategy to educate your end users about the new process. Many companies are concerned about introducing “friction.” When users understand that these extra precautions are in place to protect their accounts, transactions and identities, your brand can be enhanced.

Offering a Voice Option

Offering voice calls as a complement to SMS isn't just about offering your users a choice, it's fast becoming a business requirement. In certain countries, SMS is not as reliable as voice and a voice call may be the only way to reach most users in specific markets. Moreover, 53% of mobile phone users surveyed1 preferred receiving a voice call to an SMS. Plus, certain users do not know how to use SMS, may not own an SMS-enabled phone, or do not have messaging plans and are charged per message.

Transaction Workflows

Since authentication and other mission-critical messaging projects often touch other departments, it's a best practice to diagram how these departments and resources will be impacted by the implementation. This is where a dedicated Client Services team can pay big dividends by creating integration workflows for successful internal rollouts.Generic SMS API solution companies are not in the business of providing best practices around the user experience. For mission-critical messaging or messaging that is tied to your service, thinking through the user experience will reap real tangible benefits in terms of brand reputation and customer retention.

1 Source: Pew Internet and American Life Project on Americans and Text Messaging (September 2011)"

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