Monday, April 14, 2008

Designing Ethical Experiences: Some Practical Suggestions

Managing ethical conflict ...

"In the first installment of this series on ethics, I examined the way ethical dilemmas can impact the design of user experiences, describing how one scenario played out in the unfortunate experiences of some social networking service users in 2007. With that cautionary tale as reference, I explored how unresolved conflicts between stakeholders’ values or perspectives frequently manifest themselves as ethical challenges for designers. Looking ahead at the future of UX design, I described fundamental shifts that are occurring in our culture and technology around permeability and centralization. In the future, designers will lead the creation of increasingly multilateral, multidimensional, and co-created experiences. Such integrated experiences could introduce substantial, new potential sources of conflict—thanks to their greater interconnectedness and complexity. Therefore, I suggested this clear imperative in response to this potentially conflicted future: Design must find effective ways of managing conflict, encourage the creation of ethical experiences, and avoid ethically unsatisfactory compromises. Finally, I offered three goals designers must work toward:

* Create ethical experiences. Ensure the user experiences we create are ethical in every aspect.
* Focus on design, not mediation. Remove design from the uncomfortable position of acting as an ad-hoc mediator, resolving conflicts between various perspectives and stakeholders—conflicts that get passed down to design for resolution.
* Make design compromises to solve design problems. Eliminate or at least reduce the practice of making design compromises to resolve external conflicts. Design compromises should resolve design problems, not ethical dilemmas or conflicts between stakeholders.

Building on this foundation, this article considers how design can achieve these three goals, using a practical ethical framework, and suggests ways of dealing with conflicts that arise during the creation of key artifacts that are common to the UX design cycle.
A Code of Ethics for User Experience?

While formal codes of ethics sanctioned by professional bodies provide guidance to practitioners facing challenging or ambiguous situations in established professions such as medicine, law, and engineering, they are also frequently costly in terms of infrastructure and overhead, take time to develop, change slowly, and necessarily remain general. As an emerging and applied discipline, user experience lacks a well-developed code of ethics that addresses its unique concerns, and it is unlikely that the UX community will undertake the considerable effort necessary to create a professional code of ethics for such a volatile disciplinary space in the near term. For some time to come, there will be no professional ethical code to guide the immediate design decisions of practitioners who face unpredictable and idiosyncratic situations with ethical dimensions.

Previous articles addressing the ethical questions UX designers face within specific disciplines or situations include Peter Morville’s “The Ethics of Information Architecture” and Adam Greenfield’s “All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace.” [1, 2] Several professional bodies, including the ACM, UPA, and AIGA, have sanctioned ethical codes. [3, 4, 5] All of these efforts reflect considerable thought and are quite valuable, but they do not provide immediate guidance to UX practitioners facing the new challenges of multilateral, multidimensional, and co-created user experiences."    (Continued via UXmatters, Joe Lamantia)    [Usability Resources]

Ethical Conflict - Usability, User Interface Design

Ethical Conflict


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