ethics archives

“Choose the Right” applied to design

I appreciated Mark Hurst’s recent Good Experience newsletter. The e-mail itself (not the blog entry it pointed to, above) mentioned an experience he had in inviting an Anglican nun to speak at a conference he sponsored.

I took a chance at Gel 2007 and invited a friend of mine, an Anglican nun, to give her take on “good experience.” She turned out to be one of the favorite speakers for a number of attendees. One of her final comments was about “choosing the good,” which I think is relevant no matter what one’s profession, job title, or walk of life. By attempting to “choose the good,” we can design any kind of product – or service – or website – or organization – or life - for the better.

Besides reminding me of my good ol’ CTR (Choose the Right) ring from Sunday School, this injunction to “Choose the Good” reminded me of one of my very first NorthTemple posts: Design and the Golden Rule, wherein I outline my own motivations for entering first into usability, and now design.

Thanks for the reminder Mark.

posted by ted on Tuesday, May 08, 2007

“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, almost as it were instinctively, to long words and exhausted idoms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.”
George Orwell, qtd by John Trimble in Writing With Style

posted by ted on Thursday, Oct 05, 2006

Design and the Golden Rule

When I first got into software usability and design, I did it because I was tired of working as a technical writer, whose primary function was to describe how to work around software that didn’t work right. First as a usability engineer, now as an interaction designer, it’s become my job to prevent problems in the first place.

The more I do this kind of work, the more I realize it’s not just a business enterprise, it’s an ethical enterprise—not just to solve a business problem, but to “do no harm” along the way and ideally even to make using software a pleasurable experience.

When I worked at a software company in a previous job, I created a 99 second video collage of highlight clips from field studies and usability tests entitled “99 Seconds of User Pain” and showed it at an internal design event. It was a horrific barrage of puzzlement, expletives (tastefully edited of course), and even some tears and head-banging. The point was not to make fun of our users, but to show the depth of frustration we as a company were inflicting on them.

The video was a hit; the audience gasped and moaned and laughed at themselves—not at our poor users. People (even those working for large monolithic software companies) don’t generally want to hurt other people. They just don’t realize they are doing exactly that a lot of the time.

It’s our job as UX professionals to show developers the Golden Rule in action, and to keep them (and us) from breaking it. Not that users always know what they want—because they don’t. But they do know when they are in pain. It’s our ethical responsibility to relieve it, and even replace it with satisfaction or (heaven forbid) enjoyment.

posted by ted on Thursday, Aug 24, 2006 · 0 comments