The Lie of UX Design

Crews Varner
April 24, 2023

This week’s post will mainly be a speculative one, as we’re talking about something that I’m still in the process of learning. Let’s talk about UX design, or “User Experience Design.” A UX designer’s job is to create a product, website, or app that is easily accessible and enjoyable to use. They design the user flow, which is a visual demonstration of how a user might navigate their website or app. UX/UI designers have become more and more requested in the job market today, but despite the popularity of this position, we still see user experience on popular websites and apps turn out awful. Companies will hire top UX designers in the country, pay them a six-figure salary, and their app experience for everyday people will still be awful. Why is this happening? Let me give you some examples of some downright awful user experiences among popular websites and apps.

Amazon, for how massive of a company it is, has website design that belongs in the 2000’s.

Just looking at the homepage, there’s a huge number of issues. There’s no information about each product besides the image, there’s hardly any spacing between products so it’s difficult to tell where one product ends and another begins, and there’s only slider indicators for the top row of products for some reason? The products on everyone’s Amazon home page will be different as the site makes suggestions off of your browsing and purchasing history, but there’s also zero provided context as to why a product is shown to you. That’s only to name a few issues on the homepage alone. It gets even worse once you get to checkout.

In order to change your shipping address or payment method, you have to click “Change” which opens up an entirely new dialogue box. After that, you have to make a new selection and save that selection. These are things that could easily be (and commonly are) just dropdown boxes.

Why is the shopping experience deliberately made worse and take more time than it should?

Let’s take a look at another example, especially one of a lot of controversy lately, Twitter.

Where to begin? Twitter’s new paid service, Twitter Blue, is advertised at almost every turn. There’s a new “For You” tab so that you always have content to scroll through, and the settings are a pain to navigate due to lack of any visual help. I use about four different chrome extensions to cut away the meaningless content and just focus on what I use Twitter for: the people I follow. Advertisements even show up in the replies section of tweets, breaking apart responses to the original tweet. The user experience is horrible, are there any UX designers at Twitter? There definitely are, but they’re not the ones to blame for this result. Let’s dive into the root of the problem in modern UX design.

“User Experience” isn’t real.

Companies will hire UX designers, but designing with the user’s experience in mind isn’t the goal. At least, the experience most beneficial to the user isn’t in mind when designing. UX design to company executives is more focused on generating the most amount of income as possible, even if it is at the cost of the user. Certain aspects are made difficult to navigate on purpose, potential purchases are always in your face, and not everything is where it logically should be so you will spend more time on the website. Sound familiar?

A common practice for retailers is to rearrange the inside of their stores every few months so that customers spend more time inside the store looking around for what they need, in the hopes that customers will spend more than they originally planned on. This concept transitioned right into the digital world, because profit will always be the highest priority over absolutely anything else. UX designers aren’t to blame, 90% of the time a designer’s goals do not align with the company’s goals. At the end of the day, keeping your job is important. Who can really blame them?

There’s a bright side to this story, though. After learning about the horrors of the world of UX/UI design, I’ve come across a concept called “Ethical design”, which is what most designers wish UX design was all about.

Ethical design defies manipulative practices, it respects the privacy of people’s data, and is accessible to as many people as possible.

This concept focuses on meeting people’s needs and solving their problems. It doesn’t completely ignore the needs of businesses, but rather refocuses the purpose of design. Ethical design proposes that if you treat your users with dignity and respect, they will feel more welcome and secure and be more likely to use your product or service again. Do profit margins decrease under this way of thinking? Probably, but that’s never the point of ethical design. Empathy is at the core of ethical design, and a trait that I believe every great designer must have. If you are incapable of expressing empathy towards your target audience, you’re never going to create a great, lasting product that meets their needs.