Thoughtful User Experience

Hello readers! Remember the time Google launched one of its April fool pranks known as ‘drop the mic’, which sent severely wrong, unlike the previous pranks? Also the recent Twitter chatbot, Tay launched by the Microsoft which went on to create shocking tweets after being trained by the trolling twitter users and offending many people than creating the positivity that Microsoft had aimed at? The Google prank made quite a bunch of people lose their jobs, while the Microsoft creation went on to hurt the population.

This can happen to any of us. When we become solely focused on positive outcomes, we forget to contemplate how things can fire back. Delight and engagement are important factors to keep in mind when creating UX however, so are the foresight of shortcomings and bad outcomes.

Getting started with thoughtful UX

1) Expand your vision

Like any other work, UX designing also need a strong vision to have a steady chance at success. But, to fill in the gaps in a possible way towards success, it is necessary to find the fractures in your designing and for that, you need to challenge and expand your vision.
One example to learn from is the Flicker’s redesigning issue from last year. Flicker wanted to be the platform where a user can upload every photo and video they capture and can easily store, find, edit and tag them. To make the work easier, it introduced auto-tagging which works on the basis of identifying patterns and then proceeding to auto-tag. It backfired when the application tagged a black man as a ‘gorilla’ and concentration camps as ‘jungle gym’.
Flickr, of course, had done extensive testing before releasing the application, however, those efforts were focused on teaching the system how to get it right more often and not thinking about how to handle it if it goes wrong. By being so fixated on the perfect experience, they ignored or more of didn’t realize the setbacks. This Flickr mess-up caused a big deal of pain to their PR as the seemingly small catastrophe was failed to see as a sensitive one.

2) Got to test the edges!

Testing your UX product against extreme circumstances comes in play under this parameter. This will help to strengthen its performance out there in the wild. Continuing the prior Flickr example for better understanding, it would mean to test how well the auto-tagging works with sensitive images too like historic natural disasters, deaths, atrocities etc. along with the common images like plants, cars, buildings etc.

3) Bring in an ‘outside view’

While UX designing, we tend to match the navigation to the company’s internal departments and not the user’s tasks so much. This is the result of an ‘inside view’ getting tuned in to your organization, rather than keeping the external perspective in mind.
To overcome this, you need to include systematic checks in your system. One way of doing this is holding a postmortem; an exercise wherein you have to in real imagine that your project has failed miserably and ask everyone on the team to jot down as many reasons as they can for this to happen. Another way is to assign a dissenter to each and every one of your design projects who will ensure that the team doesn’t become a victim of ‘groupthinking’ which ceases the minds from thinking out of the box.

4) Aim to Include

This might seem like an uneasy restriction and it mostly is. Thinking about the users’ differing emotional conditions and identities can create a set of limiting factors. But that’s what accepting the challenge and continuing to design is all about; to keep coming up with endless creative solutions against the set of constraints.

There will be obstacles, stumbles, mistakes and wrong steps, but as long as we get to learn from them, our products will move towards betterment; towards thoughtfulness and humanity.

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