In July 2021, we formally launched ExperienceFutures.org with a mission to build equity into digital experiences through new design tools and standards that lay the foundation for a more empowered future. Just two months later, I’m so proud to welcome IBM as the first member organization to help us tackle design and experience equity at scale.
IBM shares our belief that, with the right ethics, tools, and standards, we can use design to improve digital equity for all. Ethical design isn’t a new concept, but there just haven’t been many practical ways to incorporate design ethics into the process of making digital experiences. So, we’ve embarked on a journey to accomplish this, starting with launching a diverse working group comprised of practitioners, technologists, and ethics experts.
This group will build on existing work including IBM Design’s widely regarded work in design ethics and designing for AI as the foundation for creating a new set of practical resources. Our co-chairs, Milena Pribić and Adam Cutler, are two of the foremost experts on design at scale and have helped author work on designing for AI and ethically aligned design (via a working group at the IEEE).
There’s a lot we’ll need to consider in developing this work, but we’re kicking off the first phase of our roadmap with two priorities:
- Open-sourcing a set of design ethics resources, for designers and digital publishers to use when creating digital experiences via a diverse and cross-organizational open source working group;
- Creating a consortium to define an Experience Equity Certification (and related tools and services) to help organizations plan and measure business transformation.
Social and business impact
Beyond the social and economic ramifications, it’s incumbent on brands and corporations to realize the way that most digital design is developed amplifies existing inequity. Whether through biased language, poor UI, or algorithmic bias, companies have overlooked their own experience bias in catering to specific customers, while leaving other groups out -- and money on the table. As brands grapple with acting on their purpose and re-evaluating their agendas for diversity, equity, and inclusion, they must see standards and ethics in design essential not just as responsible corporate citizens, but as a business imperative -- else face significant customer backlash.
Right now, digital experiences are designed for a one-size-fits-all approach, where a single UI (websites, apps, etc.) is intended to work for a wide range of individual users. In the best of cases, these digital experiences are planned, designed, built, and tested based on the needs and abilities of digitally privileged people -- those who understand how to use these services -- or profitable users. Those who aren’t core to a business strategy or part of a target market often go ignored, such as aging populations, low-income households, people with disabilities, refugees and stateless people, and many others.
We’re looking to change that. The fact is that people from all walks of life engage in digital experiences, and we need to be able to adapt to their individual needs if we want to make good on the promise that the internet was created for everyone's benefit.
With IBM on board, we’re confident we can address many of these issues at scale to bring about much-needed change.
Email email@example.com to join our working group or discuss how membership can benefit your organization.
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