Guide #022: How to include ethics advocacy in your product design process

To advocate for ethical UX strategies within a company, connect the philosophies, approaches and language of your organization to the ethical treatment of your users/customers.

Develop UX documentation around your process, values and expectations

Create a baseline of documentation that your team can hold each other accountable to, and reference when entering conversations with other teams and departments. When your team says it advocates for the ethical treatment of users, is there a shared understanding of what that means? Consider developing a glossary. As your team interacts with other groups or departments, help them understand what your UX values are, and the meaning of the terms being used. When you see others utilizing your language and strategies, you’ll know you're headed in the right direction.

Have an understanding of what the values of your organization are

What does your company say it values? Advocate for ethical UX strategies as a means of upholding these values. Become familiar with the values of the company, which you’ll usually find in the form of mission or vision statements, guiding principles, or mantras the company uses as a moral compass. Ethics advocacy should not be the responsibility of only one team or department. Collaboration with other teams will require anchoring your priorities in the shared value system of the company.

Build long-term strategies for achieving ethics goals

It’s possible that you won’t achieve all your ethics goals the first time or you won’t get everything you’re advocating for. If tradeoffs are required, create negotiation points based on the business values or the UX team values that have been documented. Detach ego from the process and develop UX strategies that communicate a roadmap of iterations that eventually get your products and experiences to the desired standards of usability, accessibility, inclusion, etc.

Determine areas of focus within your ethics practice

What are the foundational values you want to make sure you uphold for your users? For example, is it a rigorous accessibility practice, or might it be a focus on equitable research practices? Connect your area of focus back to business goals. Show, for example, that inclusive research practices that explore diverse target audiences can unlock business opportunities in the form of a niche customer base that competitors might not be paying attention to.

Actively collaborate with others to help achieve their goals

Instead of framing your ethics goals around what the UX team wants, seek to solve the problems of other groups and departments. Build allies by treating internal teams the way you would treat a customer/external user. Examine what their needs are, what their pain points are, and how you can reduce friction for them. Evolve from saying, “the UX team wants X because it's a better user experience” to saying, “we can reduce calls to the customer service team, for example, by improving the website with X enhancements.”


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