How Design Choices Can Fail The User?

The countdown timer shows time left to “silence of 176 passengers in the Ukrainian Flight”

Is this a user failure?

Many users argued whether using a countdown feature was the right thing to do and criticized people who have posted that. Their main argue was that a countdown is intended for positive events only and it should not have been used in such a sensitive case in the first place and it has nothing to do with the design but user’s decision.

What I have learned as a product designer over the past few years is that when a Human Computer Interaction (HCI) fails it is often the User Experience (UX) Design that failed and not the user themself. Yet it is always easier to blame human than the technology or the design!

Was using a countdown a right choice?

I started researching this in more depth and my first question was “what is an application of a countdown?” This is what Google showed me:

Concept of Tragic Design

I thought if this has happened on Instagram it probably should have happened before in other social media platforms as well. Doing more research led me to a great talk by Jonathan Shariat about Tragic Design which is also title of a book he authored.

Based on his talk there are four types of harms that a design could bring to the users; Physical , Emotional , Exclusion, and Injustice.

He brings examples for each type but the one that caught my attention is the example that he used for emotional harm, which by the way might resonate well with some of us.

Examples of how Facebook’s Year In Review disappointed and failed users

No one is to blame

That said, we cannot blame Facebook or Instagram designers for not predicting these use cases. It however emphasizes on the important role of us designers on people’s life. In the examples that I used a combination of design and technology ended up failing the user experience as technology could have been trained to recognize sad words or certain keywords and eliminate those posts on the “year’s highlight”.

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