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Two ways of doing design

Help the user do what they want, or make the user do something you want. Try to do mainly the first.

You can approach experience design from two angles

There are two ways of doing product design. You can either try to make it as easy as possible for the user to do something they need to do, such as placing an order. Or you could try and make the user do something that you want them to do, such as constantly reminding them to make another order that they might not need.

The first is user-centric

Making the simplest interaction that helps the user achieve their goals involves principles such as “Don’t make me think” and Polite software. You try and make the users’ experience as smooth as possible and provide maximum value. The user then continues using your product because of how helpful it is. The better your design is, the greater your value is.

The second is business-centric

The second way is to make the user do what you want them to do, regardless of whether it’s in their best interest. Increasing retention or spending are classic examples. But this type of design can easily veer into the unethical.

For instance, it often involves making it easier and more compelling for the user to spend money. So, for instance, a lot of deceptive landing pages focus on this. While this might increase the value of the business, it doesn’t increase the value provided to users.

But you need both

But the first method needs to be the primary driver of decisions. You should only do things in the second category in service of the first.

And if the second takes over, take a step back

When the second method starts being dominant, the usefulness of your business is in question. If you continuously have to manipulate your users, you must continuously find new ways to do so. You end up with a pyramid scheme of manipulations.

For instance, take the approach to “discounts” in South East Asian e-commerce. At first, discounts were a customer acquisition tool. However, given the continued reliance on them, e-commerce platforms don’t have any other differentiating points. As a result, they have to have discounts all the time. They are in a constant battle to see who will make their prices look the most discounted.

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