Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

UXPA - Dark UX

It was the hottest day of the year so far and I was making my way to London from sunny Portsmouth even though the beach was calling! But I am glad I did as this months UXPA event on Dark UX was well worth it.

If you have not heard of Dark UX or Dark Patterns it is the art of UX which benefits the business but rarely the users. Things like hiding the ‘delete account’ button, signing people up for emails when they did not ask for them or making it difficult to close pop ups without signing up for the thing on offer. (I am looking at you Amazon Prime)

First up was Daniel Harvey from The Dots who spoke to us about the recent news about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. We have all heard of it and might even have checked if we were affected but what I had not realised was that the number of people affected is actually much higher as they took the data from all friends and family too.

This was a talk about how all the time they can use our data to make money nothing much is going to change. And while GDPR is a step in the right direction it is going to need us as designers educating our companies about why dark patterns are bad and how good, useful UX which cares about the customer or user is better in the long run.

Prof Karen Cham from the University of Brighton spoke next about PET or Persuasion, Emotion and Trust.

She explained to us how emotions have a central role in decision making and explained how she captures emotion in user testing using things like EEG, eye tracking, heart rate monitoring and skin conductance research.

She believes that this research gives a more accurate result than self reported responses from users.

I was a bit shocked to hear her speak about all this as I had only heard about it for the first time at lunch time. I had been reading all about it, even about the company she has worked with and the tool she uses. A happy coincidence? (For everyone who asked it was Measuring the User Experience by Tom Tullis and Bill Albert)

Karen is an academic who works with companies to research and design things and it was interesting to hear her speak about the sorts of roles she has turned down due to the ethics of what she feels she can work on and maybe leave a positive design and others she just cannot work on.

This led on perfectly to our last speaker Sophie Freiermuth who spoke on the ethics of design.

She suggested that ethics are so hard to design with because they all start with ourselves and each of us is different. While one designer feels comfortable designing for the military or a gambling company there will be others who are not.

She showed us some codes of ethics, but we agreed that ethics change slightly when they get written down and often they are still widely interpretable.

As designers many of us have principles of design to work to which are a little bit like those codes of ethics. We need to make sure they are ethically sound. To do this we need to question, examine and enquire.

This was a fascinating event, which really got me thinking. It made me realise that I need to know more about what GDPR really is for myself and my company and it reminded me why it is worth having those uncomfortable conversations with my stakeholders when they make suggestions which push the boundaries of Dark UX.

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