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The ethical tech debate is becoming an increasingly essential topic in the design and tech community today. The establishment of The Center for Humane Technology and the trend of curbing tech addiction by moving away from an Attention Economy, are top of mind every day.

In this new reflective environment, UX designers have had to do some soul-searching and answer to thought-provoking questions such as:

  • What is our role in influencing the end user in both a positive and negative way, and in serving their needs?
  • Do you believe today’s UX design environment is taking from or giving to the end user?
  • Are we distracting end-users from having a more meaningful life?
  • How can we avoid going down the path of addictive design patterns?

Many in the industry have acknowledged that what was once considered ‘good UX practices’ may have helped accelerate this epidemic.

As designers it’s important for us to begin to challenge how we define best practices, coupled with ethical design in order to deliver a delightful experience to users. Taking a deep dive into the details will help us whittle out those practices that may be detrimental to our society, and keep the elements that are tried and true, or may actually help reverse the trend and repair our social fabric.

Cultural shifts can’t happen in a vacuum:

Solutions to the ethical tech conundrum require consumers to advocate for change, brand stakeholders to think about the intent behind the outcome, tech leaders to build in ethics into their design process and government officials to enforce new policies.

As a development company Architech is committed to doing our part. In fact, ‘doing the right thing’ is one of our core values. How do we do this?

Our Design Principles Checklist

Curated by the minds at Architech, our Design Principles Checklist provides a barometer to create designs that are purpose-driven and for people.

In the discovery and research phase, we ask ourselves:

  • Are we considering the Toxic User Personas and Mis-use cases?
  • Are we putting in KPIs that are purpose-driven?
  • Are we designing our product with finite user goals?
  • Are we considering how often users will use the product or service? Are we abusing their time by building something addictive?
  • What are our goals for the data collected? Will it be secure? Will it ever be shared? Are we transparent with the collection process?
  • Does our product help all users, regardless of disability, race, culture, gender, sexuality or age?
  • Are we considering any unintended consequences?

When designing, we ask ourselves, are we:

  • Designing our product with accessibility first?
  • Giving users the ability to easily control how accessible their experience is?
  • Only notifying users on information that they have clearly agreed to and deemed critical?
  • Clearly giving users the option to control their notifications, privacy and data settings?
  • Defaulting to the strongest privacy setting, forcing users to opt-out?
  • Promoting usage awareness and adding areas of friction as the user's time spent rises?
  • Transparent when the user is speaking to a robot vs a human in a Chatbot?
  • Interjecting friction into user actions, to avoid errors, unintentional actions and promote critical thought?
  • Giving users the ability to access their data and predominately delete it?

When developing, we ask ourselves:

  • Are we defaulting notification to be the least interruptive?
  • Is the final product fully accessible?
  • Are we using or building algorithms that contain any bias towards gender, ethnicity, race or sexuality?

By no way is this an exhaustive list, nor is it gospel. It is just our first steps at trying to do the right thing and design with intent, for our products, our users, our community and ultimately our world.

Some other excellent resources to continue your ethical design journey, include:

Center for Humane Technology

A nonprofit organization, of deeply concerned former tech insiders, who are raising awareness while advising and mobilizing tech companies, top executives, investors, technologists and political leaders. They offer a great podcast on the subject and a great Design Guide

Humane By Design

A resource that provides guidance for designing ethically-humane digital products through patterns focused on user well-being

The Ethical Design Manifesto

A framework for ethical design, along with badges to claim your stake in practicing ethical design

Natasha Dow Schüll

Author, Cultural anthropologist and Associate Professor at NYU who coined the term ‘Ludic Loop’. A design pattern that keeps users engaged built on four elements: solitude or a sense of isolation; random rewards; fast feedback and no resolution.

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