Tragic Design: The Impact of Bad Product Design and How to Fix It

Tragic Design: The Impact of Bad Product Design and How to Fix It

Tragic Design: The Impact of Bad Product Design and How to Fix It

Tragic Design: The Impact of Bad Product Design and How to Fix It


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Bad design is everywhere, and its cost is much higher than we think. In this thought-provoking book, authors Jonathan Shariat and Cynthia Savard Saucier explain how poorly designed products can anger, sadden, exclude, and even kill people who use them. The designers responsible certainly didn’t intend harm, so what can you do to avoid making similar mistakes?

Tragic Design examines real case studies that show how certain design choices adversely affected users, and includes in-depth interviews with authorities in the design industry. Pick up this book and learn how you can be an agent of change in the design community and at your company.

You’ll explore:

  • Designs that can kill, including the bad interface that doomed a young cancer patient
  • Designs that anger, through impolite technology and dark patterns
  • How design can inadvertently cause emotional pain
  • Designs that exclude people through lack of accessibility, diversity, and justice
  • How to advocate for ethical design when it isn’t easy to do so
  • Tools and techniques that can help you avoid harmful design decisions
  • Inspiring professionals who use design to improve our world

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781491923610
Publisher: O'Reilly Media, Incorporated
Publication date: 05/05/2017
Pages: 218
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Jonathan Shariat has been in design for over 10 years, and is currently the Director of Product for a small start-up in Silicon Valley. He is also co-host of the Design Review Podcast. He's written for publications such as, most notably a #1 most recommended article “How bad UX Killed Jenny,” a story about a patient who died because the EHR UI distracted the nurses and caused a critical error. He's passionate about shedding light on the negative impact of bad design and an advocate for thoughtful, purposeful design.

Passionate about human beings and their means of communication, Cynthia has always sought a deeper understanding of how people think, interact, connect. Communication has thus been a key ingredient in her technological endeavours. A Universityé de Montréal graduate in industrial design, she is now Director of Design at Shopify. On top of her daytime job, Cynthia mentors startups and is regularly invited to speak at events around the world, where her playful approach both startles and charms. In her conferences, she shares her passion and her point of view: user-centered design is a reality, not a utopian methodology.

Table of Contents

Foreword v

Preface vii

Chapter 1 Introduction 1

The Interface that Killed Jenny 1

The Role and Responsibilities of Designers 5

Conclusion 9

Key Takeaways 9

Chapter 2 Design Can Kill 17

Stupid Errors Versus Stupid Users 18

Case Study 1 Therac-25 19

Case Study 2 Ferry Crash in New York City 27

Case Study 3 Ford Pinto 32

Case Study 4 Flight 148 38

Alternatives to Modes 41

Fault Tree Analysis 47

Conclusion 48

Key Takeaways 49

Chapter 3 Design Can Anger 53

Why Should You Care About Emotions? 54

Characteristics of Impolite Technologies 55

Dark Patterns 68

Conclusion 81

Key Takeaways 81

Chapter 4 Design Can Sadden 85

The "Dribbblelisation" of Our Users 85

Inadvertent Cruelty 86

Self-Blame and Humiliation 90

"Power User" Features 90

Allowing for Abuse 93

How to Prevent Causing Sadness 95

Conclusion 107

Key Takeaways 108

Chapter 5 Design Can Exclude 115

Accessibility 117

Diversity, Inclusive Design, Design for All 128

Conclusion 148

Key Takeaways 149

Chapter 6 Tools and Techniques 153

Gather as Much Data as You Can 153

Learn to Recognize Emotions 157

Conclusion 163

Key Takeaways 164

Chapter 7 What We Can Do 169

What We All Can Do 169

What Designers Can Do 173

Chapter 8 They Are Doing Good 183

Physical Good 183

Emotional Good 184

Inclusion 185

Justice 186

What Will You Do? 187

Appendix A Companies, Products, and Links 189

Index 195

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