User Experience (UX) design shapes the digital environment we interact with daily. It is a critical factor that leads a user to a memorable experience. User experience (UX) designers work to shape our online experience as easy, seamless, intuitive, efficient, and enjoyable. They work on creating interfaces, wireframes, products, and services. Which are intended to be visually appealing and offer a pleasant experience to the users. A positive UX journey lures the user to its interactive and immersive interface, often leading users to spend more time on the digital application. The more time spent on digital applications, the higher the chance of conversion or increase in engagement activity. In this journey, however, designers often overlook the concept of ethical design in UX.
What is Ethical Design?
Ethical design is what brings in a moral and honourable factor in design. It considers how a design benefits the user, the ecosystem, and society at large.
When we bring it in UX, Ethical UX design is the practice of designing digital products and services that prioritize users. Design that is considerate, transparent, inclusive, and accessible. It reflects how a designer has considered the well-being, privacy, and autonomy of the user. Another critical factor in ethical design is to consider the social, economic, and environmental impact of digital products. The design must be sans manipulative patterns, should encourage co-design, be humanity-centric, and respect data privacy.
It’s essentially conscious design that works on the simple principle of not harming the users, environment, or society. Working with the moral principles of what is good should be encouraged and bad should not be propagated.
Need for Ethical Design in UX
Everything we interact with on the internet has a certain angle of bias. The diverse range of information, services, and products we engage with online comes with a conscious or unconscious bias. UX design deals with a number of biases, a few of them mentioned here to highlight why we need ethical design in UX:
1. Gender-based character or language bias
This is when the design features a product meant for all, however, the visual design (graphics or characters) and language are used to target only one segment of gender. Ethical UX design would consider diversity and inclusivity. Creating a gender-neutral design language that is welcoming to all users. For instance: using ’Hey There’, instead of ‘Hey Man’.
2. Language-based bias or default set bias
Basis the location of a user or the default setting of a device/ an application – a default language is often selected. The design is set to assume the user’s language basis the bias of their location or the designer’s default settings on the device. An ethical designer would work on allowing the user to set their preferred language without assumptions. You may notice that each time you download a new application or purchase a new phone – your software will ask you to set your language preference. This is a considerate, conscious, and mindful UX design that allows users to make autonomous decisions.
3. Facial recognition bias
In the past few years, facial recognition software has become a household concept. Our laptops, tablets, and phones all have pattern recognition for our facial features. However, it has been a long journey to build correct facial recognition algorithms that factor in the diverse race, ethnicity, tribal, and indigenous groups. Many apps and software are still not adept with it. An ethical designer would acknowledge the diversity that needs to be embedded into the software design.
These examples reflect how certain basic elements can cause the user journey to end abruptly online. Leading to building a negative image of the brand in the user’s eyes. The inclusivity, diversity, and accessibility of a brand’s online content and user journey depict its value system, social thought, and culture. Illustrating the need to follow ethical design practices to build a positive, thoughtful, and lasting brand image.
Essence of Ethical Design in UX
Why is ethical design conduct crucial for designers?
Our moral values include the concept of good for all. Digital transformation around us has all connected globally. Calling for designs that are inclusive, accessible, and diverse in nature. Gender, race, culture, language, religion, or other diverse factors must be considered as part of design. This makes Ethical Design a critical part of UX machinery. Here are reasons why ethical design is pivotal in UX:
1. Gaining user trust
A UX journey that has a component of ethical design is bound to build trust in the user. When the intuitive design pops up a privacy note that assures the user their data is not collected, users tend to feel a sense of security and assurance. They feel respected and secure on the digital platform and trust the products and services of the brand. This leads to building a loyal community of users who will be happy to spread word-of-mouth marketing for the brand upholding critical factors like securing users’ privacy.
2. Offering user satisfaction
Imagine you are browsing through a website that has gender neutral concept, offering fluid immersive content that connects with the user. It connects with the actual needs of the user rather than gender or culture. It becomes inviting for users that a brand/ designer has put the user first. User satisfaction comes with ease of navigation, intuitive design, immersive content, and embedded links that lead the users to what they need. Building an enjoyable journey for the user builds user satisfaction.
3. Building brand/designer reputation
Designers and brands can build their positive image in society following principles of ethical design. They can become market leaders who follow a socially conscious design that is considerate of the diversity of humankind and the environment. A commitment to ethical design can help designers and brands to gain a competitive advantage in the market.
4. Being socially responsible
Ethical UX design is also about being socially responsible in society. The digital products/services we engage in as a global society can have a significant impact. UX designers have the key responsibility to understand the societal and environmental implications of their design. Understanding the carbon footprint, climate impact, accessibility, and inclusivity of diverse groups – are some aspects of being socially responsible. These are key considerations that make ethical design essential in UX journeys.
5. Comply with legal and policy framework
There are many laws and policies like data privacy that guide and guard ethical design. In our technology-driven design world, privacy is a core concept that designers must cater to in UX journeys. Ethical design ensures designers comply with the laws of the state. Thoughtful designers in UX can further enhance the user experience by making legal compliance part of an interactive journey. That brings users a sense of security and privacy. While reducing the risk of legal issues or any liabilities for the brand.
The digital world has become our first choice of communication. UX designers are undoubtedly a significant part of designing our digital experiences. How we navigate through the applications, and how we interact with a digital product/service. UX designers hence have the responsibility to understand the ethical implications of their design decisions. They must consider user research that involves diverse stakeholders, ensure privacy, consider the environmental impact, and test designs across various target groups.
In the wide spectrum of growing UX design career opportunities, ethical UX designers will have a significant advantage and edge. Modern start-ups and global businesses actively seek designers who can ensure design and technology are used for the greater good of all, benefiting both the user and the business.