Designing with Compassion
Keeping people at the heart of product development By Davina Baum and Jessica Metro As content strategists, researchers and product designers at Facebook, we aim to create experiences that are clear, consistent and compassionate through both the language and the design. Everything from the tone we use to the controls we provide helps to make products across Facebook that are more thoughtful, more human and better for the people using them. We work together to consider the entire user experience, paying close attention to both the product design and the content strategy. The two must coexist in a way that ensures that the products we make actually solve the problems people are facing, that the user experience is intuitive and easy-to-use, and that the visual design feels familiar and engaging. Across Facebook’s family of apps, our teams are dedicated to designing for well-being. We take on topics like suicide prevention, including tools and resources for people at risk and their concerned family and friends; memorialization, to preserve the wishes of people who’ve passed away and support the bereaved; and harassment. As we learn about how people engage with our products, key insights help guide the decisions we make to launch new products and features, evolve what is already in market, sunset certain features and identify and build teams around new opportunities to create better experiences for people. Back in 2017, our team explored the ways people experience harassment on Facebook, especially through receiving unwanted messages. As a result of these explorations, we built the capability to ignore a conversation in Messenger. Let’s look at the content and product design process through the lens of that product. Our team sees it as a process in four stages — understand, design, gather feedback, build — with some fluidity between each stage as we go. We start each project by doing the work to understand the problem. This helps us recognize people’s needs and uncover opportunities to improve the products we build. The core product team consists of a product manager, data scientist, content strategist, product designers, researchers and engineers. In the case of the work on harassment, the team first aligned on the goal to explore whether our harassment-mitigation tools were serving people’s needs. To understand what people were experiencing, we looked at foundational research insights and survey responses. We also dove into the data to understand behavior at scale and find patterns. To narrow our focus and scope, we condensed all of this information into “people problems,” which are concise explanations of the issues people are facing. The team discussed and debated which ones to address, combining what we knew from existing data and research — as well as engineering constraints — to define the biggest opportunities. People problems and opportunities surfaced during a team sprint Let’s take a step back here, because in many cases, and on our team in particular, “people problems” are serious, real-world problems. A people problem might be, “I want to stop someone I’ve just met online from sending me inappropriate images on Messenger.” These scenarios, reframed as people problems, allow us to abstract and generalize the problem so that it’s solvable — but individuals can’t be abstracted and generalized. So we never lose sight of the people who are facing these problems in the real world — where safety and reputation may be at risk. As a result of our work to understand the problems, we decided that building additional tools to help address harassment over Messenger was the biggest opportunity. Specifically, we heard that the concept of blocking someone on Messenger or Facebook felt…
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