This week I was in Bournemouth for UX Bournemouth 5. They had suffered a few cancellations from speakers, but still managed to come up with two excellent speakers in Paul Boag and Jonny Rea-Evans.
Paul was first up. I have listened to his podcast and received his newsletter for years now, so it was pretty cool to see him speak live.
Paul spoke about how to use persuasive design to convince visitors to do the thing we want them to do. He is not talking about dark patterns where you do something that might be good for your business but not for your customer, but about nudging them to make better decisions for themselves.
He spoke on the psychology of design, for instance using scarcity, empowerment and framing to help people make choices.
He also talked about persuasive writing. About how to use language which encourages action like ‘Act Now’ or questions to get people to interact with calls to action.
But I thought his best piece of advice was about how to know if you have crossed the line towards a dark pattern? If you can tell your user exactly what psychology methods you used to help them make that decision then you are probably ok, but if explaining what you did makes you feel icky, then you have probably gone too far.
Our second speaker was Jonny Rae-Evans, who I saw speak at UXPA in January. This talk was along similar lines but expanded on some of the key themes.
While telling us about the work he has done with charities to help sex workers and people with STI’s he reassured us that we do not all have to quit our jobs and work for a charity. What we should do is stay in our current roles and make sure the products that we work on do not cause harm.
One way to do this is what he called a Red Team workshop. Basically you take a day out and the Blue Team who have been working on the project present their findings and ideas to the Red Team who have equal skills and knowledge but have not been working on the project. It is the Red Team’s job to look for the edge cases and how the design might do harm.
He left us with the humbling thought - when you die have you left the world in a better place?
Both talks were interesting and inspiring and left us with much to think about. But I also found it reassuring that although there will always be people who want to use dark patterns in their work, there are many others who really do have the users best interests in mind.