UX, ethics and having a code of conduct

Over the last few years there has been a trend of using psychology to influence, nudge, coerce and sometimes trick people into doing something they wouldn't otherwise do.

Design is the process of choosing and organising words, images and messages into a form that communicates and influences its audience.

The UK Design council

At the start of my career I worked for a major UK bank on a project to redesign a credit card application process. At the time interest rates were low and bank’s were making money on selling insurance that protect the applicant against illness and lay off. The commercial focus on selling these products led to an awful lot of pressure on me as a designer to use psychology to influence uptake. I felt uncomfortable, in fact so much I held ideas back so I didn’t feel like I was tricking people. Subsequently, the UK Government has ruled that practices of the time were unlawful.

The lesson I learnt was it was important to know your boundaries. To not approach a project where there was the potential to use design for the wrong ends.

The quote at the start of this article from the UK design council says good design “influences” the audience. Design is always going to have an emotional impact. Dennis Kardy makes the point: “there is no such thing as neutral design”. in his article Ethics and Web Design

It spurred me on to develop my own code conduct:

  1. Don’t trick
  2. Don’t cheat
  3. Don’t lie
  4. Provide positive benefit

I suggest you decide on your own boundaries, ethics and limits. After all, no design work is neutral.

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