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The Need of Ethics in User Experience Design

June 6, 2023
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The Need of Ethics in User Experience Design

Introduction to Ethical Design

Ethics exist in almost any field that you come across. But what role do ethics play in user experience design specifically? Have you come across any product, service, or business where you felt that you did not have a choice on how to proceed? I’m sure you must have. Making sure that your users don’t feel this way is how you incorporate ethics in user experience design. The end goal of any product is ensuring that it makes your consumers’ lives simpler. Ethical challenges surface when the business focuses more on their goals rather than the end-user’s.

For example, you run a business and a friend informs you about this app that automates 30% of the manual work that you do. Obviously you would want to check this out, so you download it. After downloading, just when you are about to start with onboarding, you see a pop-up asking you get a premium subscription to continue. There is no way to continue without agreeing to this; and since you know about the benefits of this from your friends, you go ahead with the purchase. But then again, was the user journey really ethical? Would you have bought the premium if you have the option to close the pop-up and check the app for yourself first?

As a designer, you need to find an ethical balance between giving your users full freedom and making all their decisions for them.

Introduction to Ethical Design

What is User Experience design?

User experience design, often abbreviated as UX design, is the overall experience you intend to provide to anyone using your product. A good UX stays with a user and is the key factor in determining if the user will come back or not. When a user interacts with your product, how does that usually go? Do they know exactly what to do? Do they feel lost? Are they able to achieve their goals? All of this needs to be taken into consideration when you are curating a user experience.

If you incorporate ethics in user experience design, there’s no doubt that you are providing the user with the best experience.

UX Design

Examples of Unethical Design

Now, we understand the importance of ethics in user experience design a little better. You also need to know what you must be doing wrong that could be impacting UX or could be unethical. And what better way to understand the right way to design other than looking at examples of unethical design?

1.) Roach Motel

The onboarding to any service is made very smooth. You can use the services, get familiar, all very easily, but the issue arises when you want to opt out. There is no easy way to say goodbye to the service. You have to go through bazillion of things to get off-boarded. An example of this is the app Clubhouse that doesn’t let you delete your account. You have to get in touch with customer service in order to permanently remove your account.

2.) Sneak into Basket

This ethical challenges is usually seen in e-commerce websites where additional items will be added to your cart just before you are checking out. The trick to this is that they have an opt-out or additional items checkbox on the previous page which can add similar items to your card.

3.) Confirmshaming

This is usually used in order to trick or guilt users into opting for something that they don’t intend do, like newsletters, product updates, resources, etc. The declining UX copy would be written such that might result in user confirming the pop-up out of guilt.

4.) Trick Questions

This is another clever way to ruining the user experience for anyone. Usually seen when submitting forms, two option completely opposite to one another will be placed together to give the impression of similarity. It will lead to the user believing that both might be the same and taking identical actions for both.

5.) Forced Continuity

This happens when your card is charged after a free trial without any warning or confirmation. This is not the end of it. Some products even make it difficult for the user to cancel the membership which acts like a chef’s kiss to unethical design.

Tips to Create Ethical Design

Given below are 5 tipis that will help you introduce ethics in your UX design.

Tips for Ethical Design

1.) Start with the right mindset

While starting any project, ensure that you understand the problem statement, the challenges users face. If you are working with a business, you are representing the brand value and not yours as an individual. So, it is crucial that you chose an organization that resonates with your beliefs. If there is a conflict at any point in time, sit down with your team and establish a common ground where you don’t design unethically on your user’s expense.

2.) Provide various options

You don’t want your user to feel stuck and lost while using your product, right? Always make sure that your user never feels like he has to do what is told to him and that he doesn’t have any choice. Give them different options and let them decide on how they want to proceed.

3.) Give proper feedback

When a user interacts with any part of the website, give them enough feedback on what’s happening and what they can expect. This will help your user feel more in control, will help you retain them while their action is executed, and overall will add to a good UX.

4.) State privacy policies

Be very transparent with the privacy policies of your business. If you are collecting information from a visiting user, assure them on where and how this will be used. This will help them build more trust and set expectations.

5.) Provide a smooth exit process

Some businesses work so hard on the onboarding that they forget off-boarding is also a major part of ethics in user experience design. It is crucial to let the users exit your product as smoothly as you let them in. The user isn’t lost forever; they might return if they remember an overall good UX.

Ethics in UX Design isn’t exactly a binding rule, but a collection of professional tips to help you design a product ideal for your target audience. A product designed with ethics will help you retain users for far longer than products designer to just suit the brand’s need.

If you are ready to take on the responsibility of designing ethical UX for your product, you can get started right here! Start your design journey with ProApp and learn design on the go!

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The Need of Ethics in User Experience Design
Rashika Ahuja
Head of Content & Marketing at ProApp
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Rashika is the brain behind the content strategy on ProApp, both in terms of courses and marketing. She is an Engineer by education but a Content Writer, UX Writer, Marketer, and Mentor by profession. She has worked with tech giants like IBM and Accenture and has spent the last 3 years working with designers and training them. Currently - Focusing on Building an army of creators via ProApp.

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