Designing for Good: Harnessing the Power of UX for Social Impact

5 December 2023

User experience (UX) design has become a critical element in shaping how people interact with devices. Beyond creating aesthetically pleasing interfaces, UX design has the potential to be a powerful force for social good. By focusing on inclusivity, accessibility, and user-centric principles, designers can contribute to positive social impact and create products that address societal challenges.

Inclusivity as a foundation:

One of the key principles in UX design for social good is inclusivity. Designers have the responsibility to create products that cater to a diverse audience, considering factors such as age, gender, abilities, and cultural backgrounds. By prioritising inclusivity, UX designers can ensure that their creations are accessible and useful to a wide range of users.

Words can set the tone for a company, but it’s the pictures that give it a face. Airbnb’s illustrator Jennifer Ho gathered key insights from her Black, Asian, Latinx, and Middle Eastern coworkers who said the Airbnb aesthetic “doesn’t represent me”(1). Therefore, she created illustrations for a global community by doing the following:

  • Embrace differences. Accurately represent different races, ages, abilities, and body types.
  • Keep it real. Reference real photos for every person drawn.
  • Reflect everyone. Consider all types of diversity, including the disability community who makes up 15% of the world’s population.

User-centric solutions for social issues:

By conducting user research and involving the community in the design process, designers can gain valuable insights that lead to solutions tailored to the needs of the target audience. This approach ensures that the end product is not only functional but genuinely beneficial to the community it serves.

The British Design council used key research learning to reduce violence and aggression in A&E. “Good designers spend time with the end-users of the products and services they create and involve them in the process of designing and making. They do this to understand what it is that people actually need and want, rather than make assumptions.” They conducted 300 hours of ethnographic research in NHS A&E departments, looking at how they worked from a user’s perspective. From this knowledge, they were able to identify 9 triggers of violence and aggression(2).

One of the outputs was that users wanted reassurance and feedback to see their progress.

In a world increasingly shaped by digital experiences, UX designers have a unique opportunity to contribute to social good. By prioritising inclusivity, adopting user-centric approaches, and designing with empathy, they can create products that not only meet user needs but also address pressing social challenges. As technology continues to play a central role in our lives, the potential for UX design to drive positive social change is immense, making it a powerful tool for building a better and more inclusive future.

Contact us today to find out how we can enhance your product with UX.

Written by Leanne Yip – Head of Industrial Design