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November 24, 2016

Is your design helping or distracting the user

UX, user experience, was a well talked about topic at this year’s Web Summit. When brands, services and experiences are fighting over the users’ time and attention – what responsibilities do service designers have. Is the goal of a service that the users spend the maximum amount of time or that the users can actually achieve their own goals through the service?

Tristan Harris, a design technician formerly from Google, held a talk at Web Summit called A Hippocratic oath for designers. He talked about the fact that design choices can have huge implications. Take for example the fact that on Youtube another video starts automatically after your chosen video ends. This is not choices that the user is making, it is the designers’ choice. This affects the users experience and also their behaviour – it becomes more common to keep viewing videos on YouTube, even if you are not really interested.

Interruptions are also nuisance. So many things are designed to interrupt us – pop ups, chat messages, notifications, phone buzzes, ads etc. These constant interruptions distract us during work or at other times when we need to focus. How can we design services so they don’t interrupt?

Are designers of services, apps and websites designing solutions to make people spend the maximum amount of time there and if so – does this benefit the users? Designers and service providers need to start thinking more about what the user is trying to achieve rather than going out of their way to keep the users’ attention. Tinder is another example. The goal with a dating service should be to find a date for the evening, not to sit at home alone swiping for hours. But Tinder is not designed to get the user off the screen, instead it helps people to keep on swiping.

Designers have an important task in designing solutions that provides value and helps people to do a specific task, reach their goals or feel like they have spent their time in a meaningful way. What designers should not do is to contribute to a world where people are spending meaningless hours home alone swiping, clicking and browsing and never achieving anything worthwhile.


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