Thanks to the wonderful recommendations I’ve received over the past week, I was able to do a bit of reading into the whole notion of “dark design patterns” and believe I was able to narrow my interests. I was interested in looking at the profitability of dark UX, but rather than doing a cost-benefit analysis (sounds too business-ey for SSHRC), I thought it might be interesting to relate it back to existing literature regarding the impact of usability on business ventures.
Max Speicher (of Twenty Oh Eight) defined the relationship between usability and profitability in a neat conceptual diagram. This Conversion/Usability Diagram builds off of a traditional profit model and includes usability as a primary variable that influences profitability through amount, variable, and fixed factors.
In this sense, he argues that usability increases the amount of sales a company is likely to make, due to customer satisfaction and organic marketing (or referrals and brand loyalty). Moreover, usability decreases variable expenses by lowering the risk of customer errors and broken products (issues which would require variable amounts of money to recover from). Finally, usability influences profit by increasing fixed costs. These fixed costs usually come from extensive user-testing. Unlike variable costs however, fixed costs can be reduced at the discretion of managers who may introduce leaner methodologies depending on their allocated budget.
In most cases then, usability has a positive effect on profitability. According to research by Jakob Nielson, e-commerce sites can double their sales, subscription-based services can double their conversion rates, and simply improving the usability of a company’s internal infrastructure has the potential to save millions of dollars through increased employee productivity. A hypothetical cost-benefit analysis of usability in non-profit and government agencies further showed the potential to increase their ROI by 22,000% (Nielson, 2007).
Thus, from a pedagogical and ethical perspective, UX professionals must adhere to usability principals for the benefit of the user and the company. So where does dark UX fit into all of this?
Until the next post, I would like to leave you with my research question:
Does the perception of usability influence profitability between dark and user-friendly design patterns?
By addressing this question, I hope to clarify whether usability is the sole benefactor of profitability and whether dark design patterns and usability are mutually exclusive. I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions!
– Adrian Wong