How To Design for Dignity
Companies like Facebook have recently acknowledged that their products are addictive and have taken strides to curtail app usage through stopping cues. This is wonderful.
However, companies can go further to design for dignity. In a recent talk at Brooklyn Product Design, I offered some suggestions as to how. Here is that talk, broken down into an easy to digest listicle.
Users are ends unto themselves.
In designing products for dignity, you should never seek to garner their attention more than is necessary for them to complete a task. Going beyond that through fostering addictive behaviors risks undermining the welfare of their users, and this will cause your app or service to fall into disrepute and hurt your brand equity in the long term.
To this end, you should also guide your users towards more wholesome conversations, using suggested responses to guide them towards resolving arguments. Respect your users intelligence and capacity to make choices.
Design For Satiation
Use pagination, desaturated colors, and bundled notifications, to avoid overstimulating your users. Consider capping your apps loading speed between 400ms and 1000ms, as speeds faster than this cross the Doherty Threshold and create addictive behaviors.
Inversely, avoid using infinite scrolling, overly bright colors, and frequent, automated notifications.
Remember The Big Picture
One thing that came up repeatedly during the talk was that Designing for Dignity might not appeal to shareholders. Indeed, one questioner went so far as to say that Facebook's decision to create time management features explicitly caused a drop in their shares in July. This is simply a misrepresentation of the data, which suggests that Facebook's investments in security and user welfare should produce longer term value for its shareholder.
Alternatively, to echo what Simon Sinek has said repeatedly: people don't buy what you do, but why you do it. Companies that design for dignity, at some fundamental level, must acknowledge that they are not using their users to turn a profit, but that their users are using their products to improve their own lives. A product that respects their users, especially in form and function, will command respect. Products that fail to respect their users, will have to pay the costs of rehabilitating their image again and again and again; and that, in turn, will cause problems within the organization, as that animosity turns on its own employees.
But if a product is designed to enhance their users lives, and is done so in a way that is not ill begotten or addicting, then the company can thrive at its ease and not have to fend off allegations and improprieties. They can continue to pursue matters of greatest consequence to their users and their values.
This is the key thing about Designing for Dignity that shareholders might not acknowledge from the get go, and yet it is what ultimately makes all the difference.