In the world of app and website development, product owners, designers, and developers wield significant power to shape the user experience. However, this power often comes at the cost of neglecting ethical considerations. In this blog post, we will explore some of the most pressing issues I have encountered throughout my career, including decision-making without reliable data, withholding crucial information, creating barriers to user departure, and using user numbers as excuses for inaction.
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Making uninformed decisions for users without reliable data or knowledge
Developing a successful product, be it digital or physical, requires a deep understanding of user needs and behaviors. Unfortunately, decisions are sometimes made based on assumptions, stereotypes, or personal biases, without the support of solid data and insights. This approach risks negatively impacting the user experience, treating users as mere guinea pigs rather than valued customers. To make informed decisions, data is paramount.
User feedback and requests should be the driving force behind feature implementation, rather than decisions solely motivated by sales objectives.
Understanding your audience should be an ongoing process, ensuring you have up-to-date information about their age, motivations, and preferences. Using a whacky or small font-size might win you a few design awards, but you’ll probably create a frustrating experience for the users who pay your salary in the end. User feedback and requests should be the driving force behind feature implementation, rather than decisions solely motivated by sales objectives. Remember, without users, there is no company.
Withholding important information to drive sales and retention
While sales are undoubtedly important, withholding information or obscuring basic functionalities is an unethical tactic to boost user counts.
Users won’t just leave because they feel like it, there is reason in peoples behaviour and it’s our job to find and solve those reasons.
Making it difficult for users to unsubscribe, cancel, delete accounts, or downgrade plans is unfair and goes against the principles of transparency and user empowerment.
“But a lot of users will leave when it’s too easy to leave!”
Users won’t just leave because they feel like it, there is reason in peoples behaviour and it’s our job to find and solve those reasons. Rather than holding users hostage, consider creating incentives for them to stay, addressing their needs, and reducing the risk of losing them. Offer discounts, share your tech roadmap, and actively engage in collecting feedback. Building trust and loyalty will far outweigh the short-term gains from impeding user departure.
Using user numbers as an excuse for neglecting certain user segments
It is essential to recognize that user numbers alone do not justify neglecting specific user segments. While research may reveal the distribution of users across age groups or feature usage, it is crucial to avoid using these numbers as a justification for disregarding the needs of a significant portion of your user base.
When making decisions, even a small percentage of users affected by an issue or excluded from a new feature should not be dismissed. Every user should be treated as valuable, and their feedback should be taken seriously. Remember, understanding and addressing the reasons behind user behavior is also our responsibility as developers.
In the pursuit of profit, ethical considerations in product development often take a backseat. However, it is crucial to recognize the negative consequences of such practices. By prioritizing reliable data, providing transparent information, facilitating user departure, and valuing every user, we can create a more ethical and user-centered digital landscape. Let us embrace these principles to ensure that users are treated with respect, trust is fostered, and the products we develop truly meet their needs.