Adobe: Designing more mindful products that promote digital wellbeing
Designing more mindful products that promote digital wellbeing
Check out Maddy Beard’s free worksheet to help you design products that promote digital wellbeing.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a huge focus on an “attention economy” fueled by AI and other emerging technologies. There have been incredible advances in technology that could be used for so much good, but are often used to exploit behavioral patterns for commercial gain. On the other hand, we have also seen a growing focus on sustainability, accessibility and ethics at the same time. But so far, we haven’t seen much collaboration between these two powerful movements for the betterment of society and individuals. It’s starting to change.
Even before documentaries like “The Social Dilemma”, people were realizing the negative impacts of the attention economy. As more and more products and platforms start to move away from using psychological tactics to manipulate users, and instead focusing on their needs and interests, we’ll see more and more people tell the revisit products that are harmful to our mental health.
Companies that place a high value on the well-being of their customers and design their products and services with it as a priority will be the ones that will be able to attract and retain their attention – and their market share in the process.
It’s time to encourage digital well-being through design.
What is Design for Digital Wellbeing?
“Digital wellbeing” describes the impact that technology and digital experiences have on the mental, emotional and physical health of users, while designing for digital wellbeing is the concerted effort to maintain these effects on health at the same level of importance as other trade and technical measures. More broadly, it’s the belief that technology should be a tool we use to enhance our lives, not a distraction from life itself.
There are societal consequences and there are company-specific consequences of not considering the digital well-being of users from the outset. From a societal perspective, the further we go without laws that govern digital wellbeing, especially in social media, the more our younger generations will suffer from mental health issues. From a commercial point of view, the risk is to lose the trust of your users. People want to support ethical businesses – whether in the food space, the clothing space, or the tech space. Since technology has made it much easier to promote transparency between companies and customers, companies that have a conscious and ethical approach, as well as a solid relationship with their users, will crush those that do not. .
Perform empathetic research with real users
Empathic research is key to designing digital wellbeing: talking to users “human-to-human” and relying more on that qualitative (albeit messy) data rather than the seemingly simple but disconnected quantitative data that powers the attention economy.
Conscious basic research begins with the identification of a need. It sounds obvious, but the more you stay focused on finding a problem and crafting a solution for the humans who are having that problem, the more self-aware your solution will be. But real human issues are nuanced and cannot be fully understood through quantitative data alone, so talking with and observing real humans is always crucial. In product design, this type of research never stops, but it doesn’t have to be done on a large scale. It should be more of a business value than a cut and dry, rinse and repeat process.
My case studies taught me the importance of talking to individuals. While it’s true that you can’t base product decisions on one person, you can have valuable one-on-one conversations that identify patterns and can and should shape your product. For each of my case studies, I spoke with 12-15 people who met certain requirements depending on the project. I wanted to make sure I was choosing people who would actually use the product and have experiences that would be helpful for me to hear about. Not only did I find models that helped me make decisions, but I was also able to keep these real people in mind while I was designing. It helped me stay focused on solving their real problems and made the work meaningful.
Using behavioral psychology for social good
Designers will find success by learning about cognitive psychology. For too long, many have used what we know about the vulnerabilities of the human brain to take advantage of users. Now is the time to reverse that and build trust with our users by supporting cognitive sensitivities.
When you understand the brain’s innate tendencies, you have the power to either work with them or harness them. Take the example of “social validation”. We know that getting attention from social media apps literally gives the human brain a small dose of dopamine – a pleasure chemical that motivates us to seek more of what gives us that reward. Almost all social media apps use it to bring people back into apps as often as possible. But if we have digital wellbeing in mind, we could design a notification system that compiles and organizes your alerts throughout the day and delivers them to you at lunchtime, or at a time specifically chosen by the user. ‘user.
If your product solves a real problem with an easy and enjoyable experience to use, you don’t need to use psychological tactics to achieve your business goals. There’s a to-do list app called TeuxDeux that I’ve admired for years because of its mindful approach. It’s almost as simple as a digital pen and paper, but there are intentional features that make it as flexible as it is useful. It feels really human to me, like I can feel the creators behind the tool smiling when the flying cat celebrates on my screen as I check off my last task for the day. TeuxDeux doesn’t even have any notifications yet I open and use it everyday, multiple times a day. It fits into my life the way I want it to, and I control that. In fact, I pay to use it because of the quality of the experience and the trust and respect of the brand.
Become a more aware UX designer
To start designing more consciously and also involving other team members, stakeholders and customers, I suggest this advice: question everything. If something feels manipulative, stop and question it. Make a habit of coming up with alternative designs and ideas that challenge the status quo. Just because you see other apps doing it doesn’t mean it’s the most conscious solution. If your team is skeptical, ask if you can test it! And if you work with teams or clients who don’t consider digital wellbeing at all, do your best to educate them without accusing them. Maybe say something like, “I found this article that you might be interested in. I especially thought the part about xxx might be really beneficial for us to think about as a team.”
It’s hard to ignore the nefarious downsides of humans spending more and more time immersed in technology. But instead of letting myself down, I try to see it as an opportunity to make our work even more impactful. Being a conscious designer doesn’t mean creating screens and then just passing them on to the next step. A conscious designer remains involved, considering opposing perspectives while advocating for the user throughout the process, even after the release is released. The role of the designer is so powerful because he is truly the starting point for the orientation of a product or a user journey. This means that as designers we have the ability to create a ripple effect across our team, our products and even our industry by setting the tone to be more mindful and staying true to our vision at every step of the process.