Laptops and technology devices on a table with users’ hands operating various devices
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

It’s Time to End Our Obsession with User Engagement

Koan #43

Chris Kiess
Published in
4 min readJul 25, 2023

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Engagement. We’ve been hearing this term thrown about for years. We want our students to be engaged. We want employee engagement. Hell, I’ve even seen the call for “spousal engagement,” (which does not refer to a “wedding engagement”).

Now, I’m hearing product managers parrot the term in meetings. They say things like, we want more user engagement. Or we want our users to log into the application every day.

This confuses me because I work in healthcare. I build applications that are, in theory, designed to make healthcare safer, more efficient and less costly. Engagement might be a viable goal if you’re a social networking platform. It might make sense if you work on a product designed primarily for entertainment. But even in these instances, you could easily make a case that more engagement is not better for the user — only better for the business.

When I hear a product manager saying they want clinicians to log into a healthcare platform daily, it makes me think we have lost our way. We have forgotten that many of the technologies we work on are designed to augment rather than entertain. In healthcare, for example, our technologies aren’t designed as a way for humans to pass what little time they have in life. They are designed to give time back. That’s what…

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Chris Kiess
Design Koans

Healthcare User Experience Designer in the Greater Chicago area