World usability day: Design for good or evil?

Mike Monteiro UX Live

Today marks World Usability Day 2018 and the theme for this year is designing for good or evil. This topic has been at the forefront of our minds recently, especially as it was a key topic at the UX Live conference in London just a couple of weeks ago.

We ran a couple of UX Psychology workshops at the conference, and our second group on day 2 consisted mainly of designers. They were a great bunch of people who were really inquisitive and interested in how psychology can be used within design to influence user behaviour. This naturally led onto the topic of ethics and a discussion amongst the group of whether it is ethical to influence people’s decisions online.

UX Psychology Workshop at UX Live

Image: One of our UX Psychology workshops at UX Live

The keynote at the end of the conference by Mike Monteiro was entirely about design ethics. He raised concerns about designers who are blindly designing UIs that may go against their own morales. He urged designers to be more aware of their actions and the effect their designs have on people. To say no, ask why and be active in raising your objections.

This is really the key point when it comes to design ethics. It is up to you to take responsibility for your actions and the designs you produce. Yes, we here at Keep It Usable, teach principles of UX Psychology that can hugely influence user behaviour, that can change that behaviour and create a different outcome. Depending on your principles, this could mean either white hat UX such as encouraging people who suffer from obesity to take small steps through an app to improve their quality of life and live to see their grandchildren grow older, or it could mean helping someone to make the best choice of financial product for them in an online world of confusing terminology. If you practice dark hat UX, these principles could be used to encourage someone who already has a gambling problem to gamble even more through your site. Your company would make more money, you’d hit your KPIs but at the expense of the wellbeing of the end user.

That choice is yours.

It is up to you to use your UX skills in alignment with your values. Question when you’re being asked to encourage behaviour that goes against your own moral code. Say no if it doesn’t feel right.

Use your power consciously and wisely.