Why Groove isn’t designed to exploit your weaknesses
On designing an ethical internet
A great many subconscious decisions are being made by our brains every time we browse online or interact with our favorite apps and gadgets.
Decades of experimentation and exploration by tech companies, researchers, and psychologists since the internet first entered our homes has centered around “getting people to _________” — fill in the blank with a verb that’s good for the bottom line, eg: buy, comment, like, follow, engage, scroll, etc.
True, a good portion of it is an innocuous, it’s just a noisy distraction in our lives that we can try to stay away from, but, and this is a big but: it’s hardly ever technology that helps us take a break from technology.
A recent case study by Growth.design about Amazon’s product page is a look into the zenith we’ve reached on this front in 2022: each line on that product page is meticulously tailored to get you to into a purchasing decision so fast you haven’t even figured out if you need what you’ve ordered — and to order it as recurring subscription no less. It’s so shockingly effective, that even the authors of the case study (who usually give design feedback in order to help make an interface more effective) suggest that the company would do well to make it less of a trap.
When we, as consumers and as human beings, are being led around by our subconscious while under the dazzling illusion of choice — we just don’t stand a chance. We end up relying on sometimes puny resources of willpower, and have to be constantly alert to every company trying to trip us up.
This is why it’s been a sort of experiment for me at Groove to design for whole human beings who aim to — consciously — do better for themselves. Intention or “intentionality” is a big design principle on our team at this critical early point in our development.
We have a few others too (some of which are having a moment right now as they’ve been part of the Web3 movement towards a more evolved internet):
1. People can act effectively in their own best interest and they don’t need primarily subconscious manipulation in order to do this.
2. Every individual has agency and ownership over their own behaviors.
3. Community is a stronger, more effective motivator than individual willpower.
We know we’re taking a risk by removing “cheap shots” at people’s weak points from our designs, when these are what have made Web2 companies so successful.
It’s uncommon to actually design for pauses that allow people to think before doing or actively look to support them through different seasons in their life when they may want to engage less (or in different ways) with their peers. It feels a bit of a sacrilege from a product development perspective.
It also feels a lot more humane, and isn’t it about time for that change? We think so.