An article I wrote for The Zebra on the practical implementation of design ethics.

Read the article here: How to Conduct a Design Ethics Heuristic Evaluation

Here’s an excerpt:

Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”

Why design ethics matter?

20 years ago, the tech scene was, as John Maeda described it, “Undefined, aimless, driven by tech geeks who knew very little about design.” Guided by the mantra of “move fast and break things”, this era was defined by endless optimization resulting in products focused solely on increasing engagement and improving the bottom line. The well-being of end users was often the first to be sacrificed in these situations.

Looking at the landscape now, the effects seem obvious. From fake news to video game addiction, the tech world is now plagued by products that failed to think ahead. As designers, we find ourselves in a position of power that we’ve never had before. Other professions (doctors, lawyers, journalists, etc.) have addressed this by integrating a code of conduct into their formal education and day-to-day process. It’s time that we, as creators of these products, use these frameworks and start to take responsibility for our actions. It’s time that we fundamentally change how our decisions are made and start to think about how we are impacting the lives of the people we are designing for.

To do this, I propose we systemize the way we evaluate our design decisions. For those that might not be familiar with heuristics, they are “a set of practical rules of thumb that aid decision-making in order to obtain a particular goal”. The original usability heuristics, defined by Jakob Nielsen over 25 years ago, have been a fundamental guide for the human-centered design movement and I believe that ethical heuristics can be just as foundational for creating products that benefit humanity while avoiding unintended consequences…

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