Equitable Interfaces/Ethical Interactions (EI/EX) design – how to make the metaverse not suck

by todd richmond

The field of User Interface/User Experiences (UI/UX) design has been a thing for a couple of decades now, and the growth of the field, following the growth of digital computers/devices as a commodity capability. UI/UX is part of what allowed the text-based terminal computer interface to become the touch-driven, intuitive (sometimes) interfaces. The “U” in UI/UX design is of course users, and there was a big conceptual leap when the technology development moved from being in a vacuum and focused on the tech itself, to including the user in the design equation.

UI/UX was critical in moving computer into a more human-useful capability. And clearly it was part of the driver for commercial success and widespread adoption. But UI/UX is necessary but not sufficient to build a truly equitable virtual world(s). Web 2.0 arguably created amazing capabilities and experiences – but often for only certain subsets of the population. Numerous divides exist along with bias that is baked into every digital interface and technology. While UI/UX design doesn’t avoid equity or ethical considerations, it often overlooks it. The reasons are myriad – lack of understanding of the issues (exacerbated by groups of developers that lack diversity), lack of training on how to include equity/ethical considerations, development deadlines, etc. Whatever the reason, Web 3.0 needs to do better.

This is where creating a new field comes into play. Equitable Interfaces/Ethical Experiences (EI/EX) design will allow critical factors to be considered during the technology development process. Working in tandem with UI/UX design, EI/EX design brings humanity and inclusion into the discussion in ways not previously possible. While we could try and move the needle on UI/UX design, the challenges around equity and ethics are so pervasive and so important, they deserve their own field of praxis.

For too long the digital epoch has favored relatively few while marginalizing many. This dynamic needs to change in Web 3.0 and beyond, and rigorous, thoughtful EI/EX design is one way to get to a place that is more fair, less toxic, and more sustainable for more people.

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