Report by the Stiftung Neue Verantwortung: “How easy it is to order a book on an online shop’s website, how intuitive maps or navigation services are to use in everyday life, or how laborious it is to set up a customer account for a car-sharing service, these features and ‘user flows’ have become incredibly important to the every customer. Today, the “user friendliness” of a digital platform or service can therefore have a significant influence on how well a product sells or what market share it gains. Therefore, not only operators of large online platforms, but also companies in more traditional sectors of the economy are increasing investments into designing websites, apps or software in such a way that they can be used easily, intuitively and as time-saving as possible.
This approach to product design is called user-centered design (UX design) and is based on the observations of how people interact with digital products, developing prototypes and testing them in experiments. These methods are not only used to improve the user-friendliness of digital interfaces but also to improve certain performance indicators which are relevant to the business – whether it is raising the number of users who register as new customers, increasing the sales volume per user or encouraging as many users as possible to share personal data.
UX design as well as intensive testing and optimization of user interfaces has become a standard in today’s digital product development as well as an important growth-driver for many companies. However, this development also has a side effect: Since companies and users can have conflicting interests and needs with regard to the design of digital products or services, digital design practices which cause problems or even harm for users are spreading.
Examples of problematic design choices include warnings and countdowns that create time pressure in online shops, the design of settings-windows that make it difficult for users to activate data protection settings, or website architectures that make it extremely time-consuming to delete an account. These examples are called “dark patterns”, “Deceptive Design” or “Unethical Design” and are defined as design practices which, intentionally or intentionally, influence people to their disadvantage and potentially manipulate users in their behaviour or decisions….(More)”.