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    Worth it just for the anglerfish image that really says it all.

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      That image really captures it: “good UX” is a lever for user behavior, and aligns with users’ incentives when the business model wants that.

      For new companies without much existing trust or incumbency advantage, an extremely low-friction well-designed experience supports the business model hugely. A user has a choice, they see this much easier thing to use, and they choose it instead of the clunky thing they’ve used forever. Win-win!

      But when I read this article, I get an implicit definition of UX as “reducing friction in experience toward’s the user’s own goals” as if that’s universally the business goal being pursued. Perhaps I’m even more jaded than the author, but I’m not sure that’s what Really Existing UX is these days either (or ever was.)

      If we suspend belief, and define “UX” very neutrally as the applied study of the relationship between service design and user behavior, a lot of the things the author points out make sense as part of using design to achieve business goals.

      When the business model is to limit churn, a design adding friction to cancellation makes sense.

      When the organizational goal is to be super duper compliant with rules (as in a lot of government work), a design with a lot of legalese (“disclosure” in positive terms) also makes sense.

      I really like this piece, but it left me thinking: okay, find thee a place where the organizational model aligns with users’ interests. It’s pushing water most anywhere else.

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      I don’t disagree with this article as it is, but I think it’s too focused on private sector applications in Silicon Valley. I have seen some great UX work done in the public sector here in the UK. “New-style” government websites are generally pretty good, even when the policy they are implementing is not.

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        One of his examples is the vaccine website for the public health office of New York, and I know many other vaccine websites in California, run by public health agencies, are also byzantine labyrinths. Even the website to book a test in my own town is a UX nightmare. His entire point was that the Silicon Valley is leading us down a dark path when it comes to UX.

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          Sorry, yes, you’re right. I read the article somewhere else a day ago and saw it here and then commented without re-reading it. I should’ve!

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        So the first part of the argument here is that “UX” is too often a figleaf for dark patterns, predatory business practices, and user exploitation. Definitely in agreement on that.

        But then we come to this:

        turning UX into an actively harmful discipline has drained talent and expertise away from projects that could, and should, have had more help.

        I’m less convinced and, at minimum, I think this later argument is under-developed.

        NY’s terrible vaccine website is cited as a consequence of UX’s transformation into an actively harmful discipline. But how exactly is it a consequence of that? Is it that NY copied the poor UX practices of industry? Is it that NY couldn’t hire any capable UX talent because the demands of industry have warped the market for that talent? Something else? The author never really connects the dots on this point.

        For my part, I suspect that NY’s vaccine website suffers from a lack of any competent UX guidance, rather than too much immoral UX guidance. More broadly, UX seems to me to be a discipline that can be used for good or ill, as is the case for most disciplines. Faith that UX, intrinsically - by it’s very nature, curves in the direction of the good, is indeed misplaced faith. The question is why, in the first place, we might have believed that was the way anything worked.

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          I’d always considered UX to be a good filter word: It’s the term that folks who have no understanding of human-computer interaction or design usability to describe their looks-pretty-but-is-painful-and-inefficient-to-use things. It was a good rule of thumb that anyone who used it was safe to ignore. Unfortunately, over the last 2-3 years, folks that actually do know what they’re talking about seem to have given up and are now using it as well.

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          100% agree. It’s all about gaining and retaining customers and little about how easy it is for them to use. That rule about less clicks = better goes out the window on an app designed to keep your attention. Dark patterns have become the go-to.

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            I wouldn’t have made the connection before now, but I guess there’s a sense in which this is like PR.

            In the abstract, PR is about identifying your organization’s various publics, researching those relationships and patterns to understand them, and managing those relationships.

            In reality, the organization’s imperatives will usually win any clash. Anyone who makes the mistake of understanding the user/client/customer/public is likely to be called on to manipulate them, sooner or later.

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              I thought this was a nice blog and wanted to follow it, but they don’t seem to have RSS or Atom feeds. Dommage.

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                Yep, like so many sites it’s offering an update via email instead.