BW and AW, WAPs’ marketing / anti-marketing department, contemplate another question from the Interactive Design Foundation: supposing that rather than always designing for the incomparably magnificient Wandering Albatross Press, they desired employment elsewhere (a desire that they cannot comprehend; wouldn’t anything be a step-down from the world’s oldest, most successful, celebrated, and charming publishing house?), how would their portfolio communicate their passion and enjoyment of UX design. Their answer to the question focuses more on how they could stand to work as professional UX designers (ie: can it be done in a way that is more good than evil??) than on the IDF’s question.
Since we’ve never worked in UX or anything related, our portfolio would consist of personal projects. We can improve our website and book, and we can also help friends and family improve the UX of their websites.
But could we ever love working with UX design? We’ve chosen this direction because we want to find ways to push against media manipulation. We want to raise user awareness so that they are less susceptible to the mindless consumption of opinions, vanities/insecurities, and desires. We think UX design will help us learn both the wholesome methods UX designers employ (considering the user and their needs, making the application intuitive and engaging) as well as their evil tricks (seducing with unspoken narratives of coolness, glamour, worldly success; using rich content to turn off brains so you can dump your message down into their poor hapless psyches). Our goal is to create user experiences that increase awareness of media’s impact on their thoughts and feelings and increase, while also creating engaging and satisfying user experiences. Are these goals compatible? Or do people truly want to be told sweet little lies rather than the truth? And if people are more aware of their user experience, won’t they turn off their phone more and give all sites less attention? After all, most of us spend too much of our conscious space on these distractors. Perhaps we can build a trend towards more and more openness in both design and business practices. Such a movement would probably reduce total screen time, but increase meaningful engagement with media content. That should should benefit honest companies whose values truly match up to their users. But of course, part of the problem is that we individual humans do not have adequate values.
For UX design to actually help humanity, it needs to be paired with a successful push for better values: more clarity, honesty, kindness, shared joy; less greed, vanity, lust, in-vs-out crowdism, us-vs-them. We need consumers to be better people and to demand better business practices; but at the same time (and reciprocally–for consumers and producers influence each other) we need businesses to be better too and to put limits on consumers: just because some twitch within people desires X, doesn’t mean we are going to stoop to making X.
We need the world’s businesses to care first about serving their customers, employees, and communities and last about serving their shareholders. Yes, companies need to turn a profit, but if that’s all they care about, they are going to make decisions that prioritize short term financial gain over human decency and fellowship and such a decision making process inevitably shades into corruption: if the ends justify the means, who cares how much harm we may be doing to individuals, societies, our shared resources, and our shared value-scape? And as money concentrates itself, it seeks to influence popular thought and the politic process, thus undermining socieity’s ability to set boundaries on business. All managers and employees must remain aware of these evils and of their duties to push against them.
Our plan is to improve the user experience of my site and a few friends’ sites, while also (if possible) making that experience raise awareness of their surroundings, the notions these surroundings are pouring into their minds, and how these notions relate to what they deep inside actually care about. We’d also like to build a few web pages whose sole purpose is raising awareness of cognitive biases, how media manipulates those biases, what we can do to fight against these manipulations, and the how we are never as good at fighting against these manipulations as we think we are.
If there was no WAP and so we needed to work out in the cruel world, and if we really got into it and want to turn it into a career: what then? Then we’d make case studies outlining my design processes, what we’ve learned along the way, and why the work matters to us. There are companies and non-profits who honestly want to be transparent and put people over profits. They’d be interested in a UX designer who has given some thought to how UX design can be part of the solution rather than part of the problem in this era of media bombardment.