User research, user experience design, user focused design; the aim is to always keep the user at the centre of the design process – and without doubt, this is an admirable goal. But always try to keep in mind – the user is a person too.
I heartily agree!
Have you ever been at a meeting where a particular solution is proposed and although many people openly admit “that really annoys me” or “I hate it when they do that”, that feature, or trick, still gets implemented? This is often excused by ‘business requirements’, or the difficulty of doing it another way. However I think the problem really lies in not having enough respect for one’s customers and for not accepting that they are real people (people who find your solution annoying).
I recently had the pleasure of seeing Dr Harry Brignull present his Dark Patterns. These dark patterns, he argues, are more than just the product of lazy designers or misguided business requirements. Dark Patterns are
carefully crafted with a solid understanding of human psychology, and they do not have the user’s interests in mind. (The Dark Patterns library is a great resource and if you haven’t been through it, you really should).
Nov ’11 update: Harry’s recently been featured on A List Apart.
Jun ’12 update: Dark Patterns 2012 Awards: submissions now open!
This started me thinking that actually, a lot of these poor experiences (whether they are deliberate or the result of laziness) are actually the result of having very little respect for your users/customers/audience. And that by having better online manners and treating people with more courtesy, we can help focus the work required to fix them.
Of course the worrying thing about dark patterns is that they have been deliberately designed to fool people (often out of their money). So heartfelt pleas aren’t likely to dissuade their creators from such practices. However, Dark Patterns is starting to have some success by publicly naming and shaming errant companies into action. See, for example, the heartening response from Audible following their listing. But maybe what we need is a more defined ‘Code of conduct’ or maybe a badge to wear with pride in our footers?
I read with interest that super model Erin O’Connor has recently been speaking out against the fashion world lying to women. Having put up with airbrushing and trickery in fashion advertising for many years, several key players have called for industry regulation against these practices. Their suggestions include kite-marking to show digital tampering or a “golden star” system rewarding the use unaltered photographs.
Whilst I don’t want to draw a comparison between poor web usability and fashion’s obsession with youth and perfection (and the harm this can do to young women), perhaps we should be looking at similar schemes that reward respectful, person-centered, website owners?