Handling Death Gracefully in Digital Experiences

What I like about Jason’s post is that it demonstrates what happens when empathy is overlooked in the design and development departments.

It reminds me of a situation back in 2009 when the company I worked with was attempting to create its own internal social network — you know, like recreate the BuddyPress wheel or whatever. Anyway, the solution was frought with insensitivities, ranging from inappropriate ads served to minors and microcopy that calls you a loner when you have no connections: Hot dang, you have no friends!

It also reminds me of the time I spent looking at ways a giant search engine like Google can lend a hand at suicide prevention beyond restricting search results and providing the National Suicide Prevention toll-free number.

There’s also the time Eric was derailed by a healthcare provider’s JavaScript stack when he needed help the most.

Oh, and have you heard of the new FaceTime feature that blows confetti out of your ass when making a hand gesture? It’s an opt-out feature, and one finds its way into other apps, including Zoom’s settings. Well, Zoom is a go-to tool for many mental health professionals providing remote care. You can imagine how well that feature goes over in counseling sessions. (iOS 17.4 will supposedly fix this.)

I deleted Facebook after it reminded me to celebrate my dad’s death on the anniversary he passed.

This is all too common. It’s not like anyone is purposely tring to inflict harm in any of these — and other — situations. But it happens.

The web is a fast medium. Consumers love fast apps and creators love shipping them quickly. For all its warts, the web is still pretty darn frictionless.

But just because the web is fast does not mean we have to match it in our work. There is no substitute for human empathy, and it is an inherently slow process to work in the best interests of others. As far as I can tell, it cannot be automated. I’m also pretty sure it requires a level of “human” intelligence and emotional IQ that “artificial” intelligence is unable to replicate. At least for now.

The cost of incorporating empathy in the product development process is only the time it takes. The cost of neglecting empathy in the product development process is both the time it takes to correct it and the damage control it takes to restore brand trust.


✏️ Handwritten by Geoff Graham on February 14, 2024

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