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Ethics in Design

I’ve had the pleasure to have a course during my UX Education about the ethics in design, by none other than Per Axbom!


Thanks Per for the inspiration and a great course!


It’s quite funny how much I’ve learned in the first year in UX, where I’ve heard phrases such as “Design should be easy”, “The easier, the better”, “The less the user has to think, the better the user experience” and much more. But that was somehow contradicted by what I learned about Ethics in Design. I understood how important it is to actually “Make people think”, because when a human being is aware of what is happening on the screen, we cause less errors, prevent anxiety and stress, and the likelihood that your service is more credible increases when the user can trust your service. The decision to perform an action should lay in the hands of the user, a user who is aware of making that decision.

"Design is not an objective or neutral act. Every decision is an expression of a valuation and will. Based on an interpretation."

Per Axbom

Positive Friction​

I’ve learned about how “too much friction” can slow a customer down to clicking on the Buy- button and increases the odds of them abandoning the shopping cart, or how too little friction can cause a user to miss important information and agree to something that is not in their best interest.


But applying positive friction can be very useful. I understood that sometimes it is necessary to make people think and delay the time between the stages for them to actually become aware of what is happening on the screen.

When you wait, you have time to think.

Some services might even need an onboarding process to educate the user and minimize the number of errors that can appear later in the process. When you’re signing up for something, do you actually understand what you’re signing up for?


If your service has a lot of unwanted users that destroy the experience for users who want to use the service in a good way. Maybe including an onboarding process, where the users are informed about the rules of the service and therefor can exclude these unwanted users that cause harm. The user experience can increase for those who use the service according to the rules.

Starting with

There are different ways to start thinking about ethics in design and some tools can be of big help when discussing ethics in design. There are different types of workshops that can create an eye-opening point of view that can lead to actual real change. In order to change, you need increased awareness and tools to handle the problems.

We are working with user-centered design, so it is our responsibility to protect the health and security of the people.

By drawing different cards, you can have a creative workshop and by eliminating your prejudice, you can start thinking more long-term and see the best and worst impacts of your service.  Don’t limit yourself to the outcome stage, think more long-term to understand the impact.

Input > Result > Outcome > Impact

Inverted Behaviour Model

Another method is doing a risk analysis to discover potential harm and prevent before it occurs and might be too late to repair. I learned during the course to do a simple exercise to write down what is within my control, what I can affect, and what is beyond my control. 

Bj Fogg’s inverted behavior model helps you create a map of:

  • Features

  • The motivation behind the feature

  • What behavior is associated with that feature

  • Consequences that particular feature can lead to

The Inclusive Panda by Per Axbom

There is yet another method of analyzing the users and effects of the service. This method belongs to Per Axbom and is called the Inclusive Panda. This method can give us a broader view of how our service is connected/disconnected from our users. Are we excluding users without realizing it and are there unwanted users? How well are we including users in our service?

The Inclusive Panda by Per Axbom
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