Ethical Design: How Creating Ethical Products and Services Benefits Customers and Your Business

by The Creative Alliance

Close up ux developers and ui designers

Effective user experience (UX) design meets user needs—enabling users to navigate a website or product easily, find the information they require, perform necessary actions, etc. At the same time, a good UX design helps a business achieve its goals, including things like capturing more leads, raising awareness, or generating more sales.

Ethical UX design goes further. This practice focuses on diversity, inclusivity, sustainability, and transparency. Companies that embrace design ethics want to produce a positive, long-term impact on their clients or customers. And by extension, they want to make the world a better place. That’s a lofty goal, of course, but one that’s possible, given the ever-growing impact of digital interactions.

Organizations whose products and services engage more effectively and fairly with broader audiences can have a lasting impact on them. These companies also benefit from developing a brand image of inclusion. By breaking down artificial and unnecessary barriers, they eliminate the perception of separation and invite everyone to give their offerings a look.

What Does Ethical Design Look Like?

One of the hallmarks of ethical UX design is accessibility. However, while that aspect is critically important, it’s just the tip of the ethical design iceberg.

Other vital elements include:

Non-biased research.
It goes without saying that researchers should never make assumptions. But, too often, preconceived ideas and opinions make their way into what should be objective investigations.

Inclusive customer personas.
Efforts to determine the “target consumer” should start by assuming everyone is a potential customer and narrow the field only if clear evidence supports doing so.

Universal usability.
UX design and testing must consider a diverse cross-section of backgrounds and abilities, and make changes as needed to maximize usability.

The BBC has reported that “The carbon footprint of our gadgets, the internet and the systems supporting them account for about 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions, according to some estimates.” Consequently, companies and their UX designers are obligated to create products and services with an emphasis on sustainability.

Respect for user privacy.
Ethical UX design means recognizing that users must have complete control over how their information is maintained and used. And privacy concerns are increasingly covered by laws that regulate business behavior.

Manipulation-free interfaces.
It’s common but highly unethical for websites and other digital interfaces to include elements intended to trick users into taking unintended actions—like adding recommended “companion products” to a shopper’s cart without notifying them. They may also make it difficult to undo actions, such as when it takes several steps to get off of a company’s mailing list. An ethical design must be free of these so-called “dark UX” features.

Advantages of Ethical Design

Exhibiting ethical behavior is something companies should do simply because it’s the right thing to do. But beyond ethics for ethics’ sake, there are business advantages to following ethical UX design principles.

They include:

Reaching a larger audience.
When you eliminate engagement barriers, your business connects with more people who might benefit from your offerings.

Demonstrating social awareness.
Consumers and companies today are looking to interact with businesses that are aware of their impact on customers/clients, their community, and the world in general. Practicing ethical design shows that you understand what matters to them.

Creating trust.
Credibility and trustworthiness are more important than ever to consumers and business decision-makers.

Maintaining a loyal customer base.
Ethical design creates long-term value for customers, and customers who get value from their interactions with an organization tend continue to come back for more.

Increasing referrals.
People generally prefer to refer colleagues, family, and friends to companies that demonstrate that they have good character.

Actions You Can Take Immediately to Craft Ethical User Experiences

For the reasons noted above, creating ethical user experiences isn’t a wish-list task or something that a company will address “down the road.” It’s one that businesses should take action on as soon as possible. That’s true for many reasons, including that a company’s leading competitors probably are improving or already have improved their UX.

The good news is that you can make progress on this initiative today. For example, you can take these actions or find an organization that can take them on your behalf:

Conduct an accessibility audit.
There are attributes that a website or other digital interface must have to be fully accessible. An organization with UX expertise, like a marketing firm, can conduct an audit and report on where you meet requirements and where you fall short and must make changes.

Perform a heuristic evaluation.
This process assesses how user-friendly your UX is and provides notes on recommended improvements. A website or app can be technically accessible but still provide a less-than-stellar user experience.

Review your messaging and imagery.
Often a digital experience isn’t as inclusive as it should be, not because anyone intended it to be that way but because there just wasn’t a focus on ethical design when the interface was developed. Taking a fresh look at the verbiage, photos, graphics, etc., on your website or in your app can help reveal areas that would benefit from some attention.

Ethical UX Design: A Challenging Pursuit But Well Worth the Effort

It takes time and effort to create ethical user experiences or enhance an existing UX. But there are payoffs, both in terms of revenue and your contribution to the “greater good.”

And if you engage with an organization experienced in ethical design, they can guide you through the process, making it much easier.

Learn about our UX expertise. Contact The Creative Alliance today!