Just because a product is profitable, doesn’t mean it’s a good one. We have recently seen a global cry out for the need to design products that are not only profitable but also good for the wellbeing of its users. For the past year or so, we have uncovered some unforeseen “side effects” of technologies such as social media, the constant need to reply to emails, and the constant monitoring of all aspects of our lives.
Social media was made to connect people, and allow friends to share their memories. What we didn’t foresee, was the long term effect it has on mental health. The Economist published a study showing how it affects our sleep, fuels bullying, and increases the chances of depression and anxiety in heavy users. We are so connected, with the constant dings of emails and notifications in our pockets, that there is currently a proposal to include “nomophobia,''the fear and anxiety associated with not having a charged phone, to the list of recognised mental health disorders, the DSM.
At the end of 2018, we have seen a surge in the tech giants of Facebook and Google adding wellbeing features into the iOS and Android systems, telling users how much screen time they have had, and how it compares to weeks prior. Another interesting example is the new Airbnb OpenHomes, a small but great project called OpenHomes. Using its existing booking and hosting platform, Airbnb links not-for-profit hosts to guests who may not have a place called home due to conflict or natural disaster. These measures could be seen as gimmicks or an attempt at corporate social responsibility, but it is a step in the right direction of the definition of good design.
As experience designers, we are advocates for the users, it is, therefore, our responsibility to craft good products for our users, not just ones that are easy to use, and profitable for business. We must consider long term sustainability to a users’ mental health, to society as well as to the environment that we all share with our futures.
We have all read books about how to make apps more addictive, how to drive retention and how to hack users’ behaviours to make them come back again and again. In 2019, this is simply not enough, we need to start considering the long term, have difficult conversations, and re-think how we measure the success of a digital product.