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The World that UX is Helping Create

 

One day, while on the New York City Subway I looked around and counted. Six of the ten people in my line of sight were on some kind of device. I mentally scoffed, annoyed at their inability to resist the call of their digital worlds.

That’s when I realised that I was—we all are— part of a problem. As an information architect, I play a major part in leveraging the motivations and creating the systems that suck these people into the digital realm.

I’d not ever seriously considered my own UX work having a negative impact on my fellow human end users. After all, I was there in the meeting rooms each day, fighting the good fight, ensuring that the products and services my teams were creating supported users as best they could. How could my work result in this digital zombie world?

Then I reminded myself of all the projects I’ve worked on where the goal was to increase clickthroughs, to get the user to stay on the site for longer, to gamify a process and bring the user back into the app again and again. Oh, I had absolutely played a part in creating the scene before me. The question was, did I like the world I was helping create?

Do you, dear UXer, like the world that you are currently helping to create?

This UXmas, I’d love for all of us to take a step back from being user advocates for a moment, and truly consider the world we’re helping to create. This is definitely something I’m trying to do more.

I’d like for us to examine the impact we have as UX designers, whether we like that impact and, if we don’t like the changes we’re driving, what we can do about it.

  1. Can we be more aware of what we are helping to create, by asking ourselves if our outputs helped to support conscious actions?
  2. Are we in a position to change the types of businesses we work with from those that take advantage of end-users to those that don’t?
  3. Can we decide to stop supporting UX tactics that are aimed at hijacking the end user’s brain?
  4. And, overall, what can we do to be more aware of our work and how it affects the world around us?

These matters are deeply worthy of our consideration.  Our work is no longer behind the scenes; it’s now everywhere. And, as described during the French Revolution in a statement that chillingly foreshadowed the Reign of Terror, and which was later popularised by Spider-Man: “With great power comes great responsibility”.

Are you ready to accept responsibility for the way your designs change the world?

I know I am.

Happy UXmas, everyone!

Lis Hubert

Lis Hubert

Lis Hubert is an independent information architecture consultant whose present and past clients include MLB Advanced Media, ESPN Mobile, and Viacom Media Networks. Former Chief Experience Officer for 8coupons.com — she has spoken at conferences around the world, and is also a frequent contributor to the UX community’s knowledge base, writing for publications such as UX Matters and teaching industry classes for resources such as TeamTreehouse.com.

In Lis’ latest project, the Adrift on Purpose Podcast, she works to explore what it takes to live a life of choice versus a life of obligation. You can find out more about Lis at www.elisabethhubert.com.

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