Technology companies such as Facebook and Instagram have come under fire for their addictive interfaces in recent years. Critics argue that these companies use design tricks to keep users hooked on their platforms, often without their knowledge. While there is truth to this criticism, it’s essential to understand the history and trajectory of these companies to make an informed judgment. This article will explore the UI/UX design Big Tech uses and discuss the controversies surrounding them. We will also look at how interfaces have changed over time and what this means for users.
Online Attraction & Revenue
The primary motivation of all online platforms is to keep users on the platform and extend the amount of time they spend on the platform. The reason is typically monetary since the majority of the business models of companies like Facebook and Instagram are based on monetizing users via ad revenues.
The mechanism used to facilitate this is what is known as an addictive interface. An addictive interface is a type of user interface that encourages repeated use, often by providing positive reinforcement in the form of likes, comments, and shares. These behaviors are then tracked by algorithms that show users more content likely to keep them engaged. This creates a feedback loop that can be hard to break for many users.
While many design tricks can be used to create an addictive interface, one of the most common is the use of social proof. Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people mirror the actions of others to feel like they belong. This need for belonging is deeply ingrained in human nature and makes us more likely to perform specific actions if we see that others are doing them as well.
Interface Design – UI/UX
User interface design is a critical component of technology companies, as it determines how users interact with the product. In the case of social media platforms, UI design is vital for two reasons. First, it needs to be engaging to keep users on the platform. Second, it needs to be easy to use so that users can easily navigate the platform and find the content they’re looking for.
User experience design, on the other hand, is focused on how users feel when using a product. This includes making sure that the interface is easy to use and navigate and ensuring that users have a positive overall experience. This is often done by providing feedback when users take actions on the platform, such as liking or commenting on a post.
The terms UI and UX are often used interchangeably, but there is a distinction between the two. UI design focuses on the visual elements of an interface, such as how it looks and feels. On the other hand, UX design is concerned with how easy it is to use an interface and how efficient it is at doing what it’s supposed to do.
One of the most important aspects of UX design is usability, which is how a user can use an interface to achieve their goals. Usability is affected by factors such as how easy it is to learn how to use an interface and its efficiency once users know how to use it.
Designs and Reinforcement
The design of an interface can significantly impact how users interact with it. This is because the design of an interface can influence our emotions and behaviors.
For example, the use of color is a common tool that designers use to influence our emotions. Colors can create different moods and feelings, which can affect how we interact with an interface.
In addition to colors, the use of shapes, sizes, and other visual elements can also influence our emotions and behaviors. For example, round shapes are often associated with friendliness and approachability, while the use of sharp shapes is often associated with danger and aggression.
The way an interface is designed can also influence our behavior by reinforcing specific actions. This is often done through rewards, such as likes, comments, and shares.
Look & Feel…Now & Then
A simple visual comparison of the interfaces of these platforms from when they began or early in their development to today highlights the changes that have been made to the interface and features of interaction.
Compare the current Facebook user interface with this image of early Facebook below:
Similar stark differences in most social media platform user interfaces are apparent compared to early iterations.
Platforms change the design and features of interaction to promote usability and engagement and reinforce user experience, so they continue to spend more time on the platform. Changes in the interface design are not just made to improve the look and feel of an app but also with the strategic purpose of keeping users engaged for more extended periods.
Some changes, such as introducing a newsfeed on Facebook or a Stories feature on Instagram, have been controversial because they significantly changed how users interact with the platform and led to people spending more.
While social proof can be a powerful tool, it’s important to remember that it is just one of many design tricks technology companies use to keep users engaged. In the next section, we will look at the history of Big Tech companies and how they have navigated regulation.
Technology companies have long been under fire for their addictive interfaces. In recent years, this criticism has reached a boiling point, with many people calling for stricter regulation of these companies. While there is truth to the claims made against them, it’s important to understand the history and trajectory of these companies to make an informed judgment.
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