Who, in business today, doesn’t strive for more clients? So imagine what life would be like if your client profile looked something like this:
Both male and female clients; teens, millennials, boomers, super seniors and all ages in-between; every income level; every educational level; all religions including those with no religious beliefs; all political persuasions; all spoken languages; all cultures, all social mores and ethnicities …are you feeling overwhelmed yet?
We’ve just described Facebook’s 2+ billion users, except we haven’t addressed the reality that this user base includes millions and millions of account holders with ethical intent and constructive agendas along with a marked percentage of those whose goal is manipulative and even malevolent.
Margaret Stewart, Facebook VP Product Design, observed, “As the number of people using your product grows, so does the likelihood that people will use it in unintended ways, creating both good and bad outcomes.” She also pointed out that across the globe, Facebook users do not even access the platform in the same way.
Most designers have the luxury of defined audience profiles; not so with Facebook. Advertisers on Facebook can target a highly defined, ultra-specific user group. But in designing its own platform and user experience (UX) Facebook must consider 2.23 billion vastly diverse individuals.
Margaret has written an in-depth article addressing what she defines as the Four Quadrants of Design Responsibility. The quadrants include: pixels, individual, humanity, and ecosystem.
“As designers,” Margaret writes, “we are primarily trained for, and tend to feel, most comfortable in the bottom left quadrant (the intersection of pixels and individuals). It’s where we can push our pixels and focus on our craft. It’s where we can focus on needs at a human level, planning for our products to be used by specific personas who perform pre-determined tasks.
Facebook designers must care about craft and the details in that lower left realm but designing at a global scale means embracing the responsibility of all four quadrants. We operate at a scale and pace unseen in human history.”
This Part of the Blue Ocean Includes Uncharted Waters
As of August 2018, YouTube had 1.9 billion users. Instagram reported 1 billion active monthly users as of September 2018, and the number of Apple iPhone owners is rapidly closing in on the billion mark as well. Microsoft, Google, Amazon—you know all the giants today who in the process of conducting their daily business, have found themselves additionally carrying a massive responsibility for shaping and influencing people, governments, cultures and even generations.
As Margaret summarized, “We must remember that all of us — as designers, as businesses, as an industry — have a broad responsibility to ensure that technology is built and deployed in service of humanity, and not the other way around.”