Principles for building products that are good for the world

Motivated by the state of the world, and a feeling of responsibility as a product designer that creates products thousands across the globe use, I have developed a set of principles that can be used as heuristics when evaluating products and services or as guidelines when creating or iterating on them. These principles focus less on the functional or usability aspects designers are used to and more on the morality, ethics, and impact those products can have on the world.

You may be familiar with Jakob Nielsen’s 10 general principles for interaction design, or Bruce Tognazzini’s First Principles of Interaction Design, common principles that folks like product designers use to both evaluate products and services or guide their own work. You can use these principles just like you did those.

My hope is that this helps further conversation and causes product creators everywhere to consider the greater morality and ethics of the things we are releasing out into the world and the resonating impact and outcomes those products may have. Similar to a doctor taking the hippocratic oath, we designers have a responsibility to uphold a certain level of character and influence our work with the values we want to see in the world.

Principles

Accessibility

The system should be usable by those with varied abilities, devices, or connection.

Diversity

The system should invite diversity of personal identities, ideas, perspectives, and backgrounds.

Equity

The system should recognize and make accommodations for users approaching the system from different levels of expertise and varied backgrounds so that they have the same opportunity to grow, contribute, and develop the system as other users.

Belonging

The system should ensure all users feel equally comfortable to connect and contribute.

Inclusion

The system should promote a culture of inclusion that embraces everyone’s differences and involves all voices.

Privacy

The system should respect users right to be forgotten, disclaim, warn, and ask for consent to collect, use, or store, the user’s information.

Security

The system should promote the wellness of, and not jeopardize the user’s physical, mental, spiritual, or financial security.

Safety

The system should ensure and promote psychological, emotional, mental, and physical safety of its users whenever possible, and provide the means for them to seek aid, justice, or remedy, upon an incident.

Stigma & Bias

The system should not promote and instead seek to identify, combat, and rectify incidents of discrimination, stigma, bias, misinformation, fear, and false narratives that may be caused, facilitated by, or promoted by the system.

User Health

The system should encourage healthy habits of its users and not seek to addict them to the system.

False Obsolescence

The system should not be planned or designed as a product with an artificially limited useful life or a purposely frail design that causes it to become obsolete after a certain pre-determined period of time.

Honesty & Truth

The system should seek to promote objective truth and rectify instances when misinformation may be caused or spread by the system or its users.

These are broad rules of thumb that you can use during the creation of a product or as regular heuristics to review existing products. I recommend doing so frequently, as the issues that arise out of our products may often not be intentional and only show up after time.

If you have feedback, feel free to hit me up on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Thank you to Benevity for allowing me to test this, Alan, Ed, Chance, the 2-Minute Tabletop crew, and Ashley, for a lot of great feedback thus far.

v3: 2021, Jan 18

A couple of oxford comma fixes.

v2: 2020, Dec 31

After testing and a lot of feedback the following changes were made:

  • Revised language to Stigma & Bias for clarity
  • Added User Health
  • Added False Obsolescence
  • Added Honesty & Truth

v1: 2020, Oct 22