Debate by Design

Good Practices, may or maybe not Good Users.

In the dawn of internet, notions as: user experience or user interface, weren’t an object of intentional study or development. It has been always a matter of trial an error. Today, that once unexplored territory is filled with assumptions and practices, that seems to leave less space left for lateral thinking, dissension or debate.

In the kingdom of Google & Apple, everything is UX/UI oriented, intuitive and frictionless experiences are synonymous of success (in spite of unsolicited content that “the terms and conditions may apply”). The counterpart of this success is the profit from user laziness who didn’t quite interact with a tool but just react to it: the so called technologically illiterate. By the way, at some level an intuitive practice come only from a learning process, later, it develops into usage, then routine, and finally a biased behavior (that, if changed, causes a big friction). In fact, our intuition often has been explained as part of a genetic heritage deeply connected with previous learning, then intuitive design must be taught.

Going further, there’s a side problem of how we approach users; poor interaction or lack of engagement. For that, gamification came to the rescue. Though this also generates another sensitive issue: reward expectation. Can we be related to a product or a service without any competitive race for reward?, at this point probably We must redefine the terms.

With the arriving of the internet of things, the complexity is getting even bigger for future UX/UI design practices. But even so, I’ve been arguing many times before, it seems that every single service or product has to be competitive by offering a web or mobile alternative to the customer, even when still to this day, to at least 60% of world population there’s no warranties for a safe, steady and stable connection anywhere, anytime.

In this scenario, What’s the right path for UX/UI design? Prioritize the usability approach or the reward expectation? Maybe we need some complementary alternatives for a change.

The Controversial

Adversarial Design is a term outcome of a study by Carl Di Salvo about how technology design can provoke and engage the political. Living in an age when the opinion about politics, policies and political media is changing from disregard to involvement, the possibility of making design a key factor in the evolution of this critical conscious society is exciting.

Di Salvo’s book convey a kind of showcase of, mostly, experimental designs, in the limits of art and functionality, indeed a fertile field for conceptual debate and interaction, a circumstance that available products or services designed for the market are usually lacking of, because they are presumably following the rules of the market.

The Harmonic

Another alternative approach developed by Hakuhodo Diversity Design is 凹デザイン (Boco Design). Instead of agonism, this concept is oriented to harmony, but the harmony of the incomplete. Initially aimed at people with disabilities -using the analogy of the concave (凹) and the convex (凸)- this design concept gives value to design only to be completed due to human experience.

The idiosyncratic inspiration implied on this framework, like in wabi-sabi’s aesthetics, is incomplete on purpose. The objective of this design idea is to maintain the connection between technology and human interaction, locating design as a tool to make people more active, not the contrary.

If we could apply some of the Adversarial Design or Boco Design frameworks into the experience of consumers, design gradually turns into an organic access to awareness for public and social issues.

Beyond Debate, Closer to Design

Can we imagine a profitable experience that doesn’t follow the strict monetizing laws imposed by algorithms?, an UX/UI that is simple but exalting human intellect (both at the same time), a content not strictly paid to be read or read to be paid?, an UX/UI that matters not only for startups, but for everyone?. In theory that’s already happening. Any hackathon you heard of is at least aiming for a creative answer for a certain issue, but even inside those environments, leaps of faith out of the market scheme are still an anecdotical practice.

Wouldn’t it be exciting an UX/UI with living content changing due to meaningful comments?, a storytelling that evolves through different media, away from viral videos, memes or social trolling?, an UX/UI that warn us about how we use the tool and how to use it beyond its abstraction. Imagine a creative experience for the user and the producer. A place for debate, action and complementary profit of what’s left in the conversation between technology and experience through design. The biggest reward would be part of a creative process and the value of strategy.

Nowadays our biggest ally could be a trojan horse inside our own fortress, built by our efficient ego, loaded with frictionless assumptions and the beauty of usability. Somebody may argue, with perfect sense, that a non-intuitive approach will only increase frustration and finally a sterile debate. Fortunately for us, design can also attempt to go beyond that. Design cannot save the world but at least could define a system to make us comfortable inside debate, while the true meaning of it, might transform the complexity of people’s life into knowledge, and We all can agree: knowledge is power.