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Designing To Create An Ethical Engagement

March 13, 2021 |
Design, UI Design, UX Design, Web Design
Ethical Engagement

Engagement is a wonderful thing; imagine an unengaging world would be a very dull and lifeless place. While an engaged customer is great for a business, is it always so great for that customer? Instead of focusing on engagement, shouldn’t we be focusing more on making a positive impact on people’s lives? In today’s world, it is more important to think about what is best for users, and even for society as a whole, rather than on what is best for business? That said, we shouldn’t stop designing for enhancing engaging experiences, but aim for ethical engagement.

What is Ethical Engagement?

As per the literal definition, ethical engagement means following the rules or standards for right conduct or practice, especially the profession’s standards.

In other words, the UX industry must be striving to strike the right kind of engagement. We should encourage designers to design experiences that are engaging in a good way, but not in a potentially harmful and addictive way. The problem is, there’s a very fine line. How do you design ethically engaging experiences, and not intrusive and potentially addictive experiences? How do you ensure your interface isn’t intruding in someone’s space? Here are some things that you can do.

Outcomes Over Engagement

Instead of chasing engagement KPIs, like the number of page views, frequency of visit and session duration, you should be focusing on outcomes, like orders, upgrades and subscriptions. Bottomline – you should be aiming for outcomes and not engagement. Engagement may help in driving the desired outcomes, but if it’s the wrong sort of engagement, you’ll not be able to do so.

Even if you’re just trying to get more attention on adverts, it’s still the positive outcomes of advertising, be it increased sales, brand recognition, or increased customers that you should be aiming for.

Ethical Engagement: Never Abuse Persuasion Techniques

We’ve all clicked on a link claiming 10 times the cameraman caught more than expected, or 20 celebrities that you wouldn’t recognise today. One of the commonly used persuasion technique is Clickbait. Tempting users with a teasing glimpse of what one little innocent click might bring them.

Persuasion techniques can be overpowering stuff, so don’t abuse them. Whenever you employ a persuasion technique to keep users on your site or increase engagement, think if you’re crossing that fine line? Use your persuasion superpowers for good.

Ethical Engagement: Notify Only When Required

We all get tons of notifications every day; 100, 200, or maybe more than that. That’s a huge number, and the majority of these notifications aren’t essential; they’re just noise – information that’s not important. Like the fact that someone changed their Facebook profile pic, or that out of 1000 people you follow on Twitter, someone just liked a tweet. In case you’re considering using a notification for an app, or sending an email update, you need to be careful. If you think that the user really need to know this, then only set-up a notification or send an email. If the answer is ‘not necessarily, then don’t send – simple.

Ethical Engagement: Allow Users To Change Notification Settings Easily

If you were to total up all the time you spent trying to find and then change notification settings within apps and websites, it would be a mind-boggling figure. A large number of apps and websites make it difficult for users to change their notification settings.

Users must be offered a very easy, straightforward process to change their notification settings. Also, make the default settings very clear. For instance, please provide a clear link from emails sent out to change their notification settings quickly, or unsubscribe. Do some user research to find out what default notification settings are acceptable for users. Even do some user testing to make sure users can easily understand the settings and change them when required.

Keep The Interface To a Bare Minimum

Which is the best interface? A touchscreen, or a voice driven interface? It’s a trick question, since the best interface is as little interface as one can get away with.

People don’t want to use interfaces; they want to get their job done. It would be best if you kept the interface to a minimum to take up as little of their time as possible, unless you’re designing a video game.

Reduce Friction

Have you ever been to a large Ikea furniture store? Trying to steer through an Ikea store is like shopping within a giant garden maze, and that isn’t good. You enter to buy an office desk or new bedroom furniture and spend 45 mins zig-zagging through the store in a waste attempt to find what you’re looking for. It can be very frustrating because Ikea has introduced a lot of friction.

When it comes to user experience, friction, whether by design, or not, gets in the way of the user getting their job done. Friction might be the unnecessary extra steps that users are taken through; the unnecessary information that users must type in; or the advert that users must watch at least 5 seconds of before proceeding. Try to reduce friction as much as possible so that users can get in, do what they need to do, and then get on with their life.

Don’t Be Evil

As a designer, you hold great power. The power to influence people’s behaviour and even their lives through the design of their environment and the products and services they interact with. Design can be a powerful driver of social change, and like a superhero, you must choose whether you want to use your powers for good or evil. 

Don’t be evil. In the long term, you will be better served by doing good things for the world, even if you abandon some short-term gains by doing so.


Addiction to technology, whether in the form of a smartphone, a laptop, a tablet, or a smart TV, is a problem that we cannot ignore. It’s a problem that designers have in-part caused and should help fix. Therefore, we must seek to design more ethical engagement experiences. While designing, we must value not just what is best for business, but what is best for users and society. Contact Us to Know more

Read More about basic principles of Ethical Design here

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