If You’re Not Digitally Ready, Will You Be Digitally Robbed?

As we delved into patterns in design in the initial weeks of quarter two here at the Austin Center for Design an experience at a job I had came to mind. I hope you’ll read on to hear my story and learn as to how these patterns and your own experiences with systems can prove to be essential tools for a more moral framework.

I worked at a publication company that had a massive user base. The encyclopedias were in classroom’s all over the country, used for collegiate level research and even utilized by government agencies. This company had been putting a lot of focus on their digital platform and services. Through rapid expansion into the digital sphere things grew rather quickly, and from my view without much thought. In turn this once beneficial organization created a mess of a pay-per-use service that clients had no idea they were signing up for. Signed up for the free trial and didn’t cancel within the appropriate time frame? Too bad! The company clearly stated in tiny text at the bottom of the page that you had a seven-day window to opt out. How would a deduction of 120 dollars feel on your bank account as a broke student doing research? Screen Shot 2019-11-07 at 5.45.34 PM

My day’s at work were filled with responding to questions via email for refunds from students who did not know what they were being billed for. I heard from confused elderly persons who didn’t quite understand where they could opt out of the service, they didn’t even know they signed up for anything at times. They explained that they wanted to access the information online and inputting their billing information was simply a step for them to do so. I even recall a conversation from a woman who had just found out after three years that she had been paying for the service, as her son needed credible and citable source for a school project years ago.

This robbed these people of their time and their money. Whereas my role in speaking with these people provided me with a steady paycheck, on company time. I couldn’t help but feel conflicted at the end of my days explaining why this happened over and over again. This dark pattern I identified through direct experience as a customer service representative early on has stuck with me and become a vital tool in my toolkit. My entire role was to try and make a system that abused peoples trust, trustworthy again. It was cyclical and unhealthy. This service was excluding people who were unable to digest the “read between the lines” approach to providing a service. These users wanted to learn from a credible source, not be taken advantage of.

These people were being taken advantage of and according to some of the insightful readings in 2C I was able to see who I was speaking with on a day to day basis at this job in hindsight.

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Ethics to me is something that comes through one’s own experience. I’ve been putting things in and taking things out of my “ethical toolkit” for some time now. It’s in this quarter’s ethic’s class where formal construction is taking place and being talked about thoroughly with good intention.

It’s here where I’ve been able to assess what I want to bring to a future project. Do I want to carry a mindset driven by sales and growth? Or a mentally sound frame of reasoning and inclusion that supports a product or service. This experience at said company was something I’ve seen over and over again throughout other professions and stories. It’s something that I’ll always use to test my framework behind something I’m helping design.