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When your UX is "so good" it's disrespectful

Does having an addictive game equate to success? Where do we draw the line between encouraging users to click on a link and tricking them?

User-friendly, as this article points out, is no longer about just making things easy to use; user-friendly today also means making sure your interface respects the user - or at least, that's what it should mean.Unfortunately, in a world obsessed with monetisation and click-through rates, UX "dark patterns" are becoming increasingly commonplace (see Facebook's notifications that aren't really notifications or mobile games utilising design patterns that are scientifically proven to have addictive qualities). Because, by some metrics, they're effective.

We also live in a world where users are more willing (or unwittingly) trading privacy for convenience (see the fact more and more people are willingly installing internet-connected microphones and cameras in their homes). What happens when the privacy the user has traded away isn't respected to the same degree as the revenue a company gains from them? (see the Equifax clusterdump). 

With this in mind, ethical UX design needs to be considered more and more these days. But the benefits to taking an ethical approach go beyond being just "good". As users become more aware of dark patterns and the ways companies try to wrestle control of a user's privacy and attention away from them, the more likely there will be a backlash in the future from users to user-unfriendly, or user-disrespectful, experiences. I remember unfollowing a certain newspaper on Facebook when it seemed like every second post was about a guy with "DEVAST8" tattooed across his face; it seemed to me that a post's "popularity" was more important than it being any good regardless of the fact a lot of the comments at that point were along the lines of "enough of this already".

I believe in meaningful user experiences, ones that respect users, otherwise, it's easy to draw parallels with making money by dealing drugs. "Good" UX is a means of achieving a better, more sustainable form of success, when "user-friendliness" - in the sense of being a user's friend - becomes, in itself, a metric for success.

The listicle might seem like an effective and sticky bit of UX for publishers who want to juice traffic and ad impressions. “But until you say, ‘here’s the amount of money you’re losing doing that,’ they’re not going to change it,” Ryan says. She admits that this approach takes longer and is harder than taking the path of least resistance. Making the case still falls on the designer’s shoulders.

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