Avoid biases in design

Three black-colored birds sat on a different side together, and a yellow color bird sat alone on the right side on a straight line.
Image source:https://www.aesc.org/sites/default/files/uploads/images/bias-blog.jpg

A family had boarded a flight. A few minutes later, the daughter suddenly asked the father, “Do only boys can travel on the flight?” The father had made her understand that every human being can board a flight and asked her why she had asked that question? The little girl had pointed seat numbers indications below the overhead locker. This story came to my attention several days before while scrolling down my LinkedIn feed (Reference: LinkedIn Post). At a glance, this conversation seems normal. In this story, the father was aware, and because of that, he had posted on LinkedIn and caught the attention of flight authorities. However, it is an example of implicit bias.

We tend to have some uncertain biases by nature. We should try to address our biases to make products more equitable which helps to address inclusivity and accessibility. If we only try to make things according to our beliefs and thoughts, indirectly we are only making products for ourselves and excluding the potential user base, which is full of ample possibilities and hope.

“We can say bias is favoring or having a prejudice against something based on limited information.“

We all are good practitioners of our own biases. However, as product designers, we should take care of biases as much as, we can.

Let’s have some discussion on mostly seen biases while working on user experience.

  1. Confirmation Bias:

Knowingly or unknowingly, we love to hear what we want, irrespective of what others think and what they want to say. Sometimes, we drive our conversation in a manner where we can have maximum chances to get what we want. Confirmation bias occurs when we start looking for evidence to prove the hypothesis we have in our minds. While doing surveys or research, it is necessary to take care of own confirmation bias.

Two people are standing on different sides of a numeric. For one person, it is 6, and for the other, it is 9. Both are discussing their opinions.
Image source: https://phys.org/news/2018-04-bias-true.html

How to avoid Confirmation bias

  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Actively listening without adding your opinion
  • Include a large sample of users with diversity

2. False Consensus Bias -

False consensus bias is an overestimation of the number of people who will agree with our idea or design. People often believe that most people will get aligned with their beliefs and values. It is a very dangerous bias while working with the team. Your biased insights can waste the efforts and time of team members.

How to avoid false consensus bias -

  • Identify and articulate your assumption
  • Survey a large group of people with a diversity

3. Primary Bias -

As a child, we all played memory games on some occasions. From that experience, we can agree that we tend to remember the first word without much effort. Primary bias is about remembering the first participant most strongly. While we are doing research or survey, it has high chance to miss some crucial insights due to primary bias.

How to avoid Primary bias -

  • Take detailed notes or recordings
  • Be consistent with the questionnaire

4. Implicit Bias / Unconcious bias -

The collection of attitudes and stereotypes we associate with people without our conscious knowledge is known as implicit bias. It is seen extensively in our surroundings. Recently, a Chinese man in New Zealand could not get his photo recognized on a passport from the online software by “subject eyes are closed”. This system does not design with diversity in mind.

Document presentation of an example, with the photo and error.
Image source: https://mashable.com/article/passport-system-photo-racism#mREYDk68gmqS

By making unconsciously biased decisions, we are excluding a certain group of users. It can widely impact your product, and business, and question your humanity. (To learn more about unconscious bias- read this blog)

How to avoid Implicit bias

  • Reflect on our behavior
  • Ask others to point out our implicit biases

5. Sunk cost fallacy -

While we are working on something and focused, there may be a possibility we got stuck in something and are unable to find the way out. At that moment, we should step out of that. It can get dangerous for the project and the team working on it. The deeper we get into a project we have invested in, the harder it is to change course. We should avoid being a procrastinator in this situation. Here, optimism and passion are good but not exaggerated.

How to avoid Sunk cost fallacy bias

  • Break down your project into smaller phases.
  • Outline points where you can decide whether to continue or stop.

6. Social desirability bias -

Humans tend to spend in a way that makes them look good. This kind of behavior is known as Social Desirability Bias. Everyone wants to be desirable, awarded, and recognized in their respective circles. For achieving so, they will do what is good in the eyes of their surroundings and desired by others. They may behave differently while they are alone. UX Designers often quotes “What customer thinks, say, do, and want are always different.” So, we have to count for each detail like their body language, behavior, what they are saying, how they are reacting and interacting, etc.

Four personas are standing and have a mask in their hands. It is a representation of different personalities than their own.
Image source: https://www.skillcast.com/blog/reduce-workplace-unconscious-bias

How to avoid social desirability bias

  • Notice body language and behavior along with talk
  • Avoid talking about your opinion during a conversation
  • Ask others to point out your social desirability bias

7. Hindsight Bias-

As a human, we always learn from our past and present. It may be a good or bad experience. Hindsight bias is humans always find reasons for our actions in the past. While doing research or interviews, user mentions something pointing toward the past, and ask more open-ended questions to avoid getting biased.

How to avoid Hindside bias

  • Take fresh perspective
  • Try to understand, Why and how it is connected to the current situation

8. Serial position effect-

Our memory is trained in such a way that we easily remember first and last information and find difficulty in remembering middle information. We tend to value items at the end/ beginning of the list. This can affect research and interviews.

How to avoid serial position effect

  • Make notes or record the session
  • Be consistent with a questionnaire

Let’s create our present and future equitable.

Thanks for reading and considering.

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Cheers!!

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Dhatri Suthar

Dhatri Suthar

UI/UX designer @ Yapsody

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