The Ugly Side of UX


I’m not a fan of focusing on the negative. However, a mentor advised me to ask UX professionals about the things they don’t like about UX/UI design. That way, I’m not surprised later on down the path.

If anyone could share any daunting/painful/unpleasant aspects about the field (other than convincing leadership that UX is important), I would really appreciate it!


To me, the biggest ugly side of UX is Dark Patterns, which are tricks used in interaction design to manipulate you into making decisions against your best interest.

UX is about problem solving, creating efficiencies, and generally making the world a better place. As UXers, we are the user’s last line of defense against poor or malicious designs. Dark Patterns are the antithesis of everything I believe UX to stand for.

Not all Dark Patterns are created on purpose. Often they are the result of a toxic combination of business requirements and bottom-line-thinking that persuades designers they are working in the users’ best interests. However, there are interaction designers that specialize in the creation and implementation of Dark Pattern designs.

UXers are inherently in a rough spot as they need to work in the best interest of everyone (both the business and users) - and this often creates a conflict of interest. As UX professionals, we need to stand for ethical design principles and work against those who would use the foundation of our practices against the public in general. This will always be a daunting, painful, and unpleasant task, but I’m convinced it’s a battle we can win if we stand together.


Wow! That’s a great insight. Thank you. That’s the reason I changed from a business major – I felt like the industry of manipulating people (marketing) was an unethical realm that I wanted nothing to do with. I completely share and agree with your resolve to stand against unethical design, and that UX should be about making lives better.

That gives me a thought… There should be some association for ethical user design. Then companies who have met certain standards could receive a certificate on their site/app. When users see it, they can be confident that they’re not being manipulated :thinking: Maybe there already is…?


There’s not an association for this as such… but designers who are members of the UXPA agree to the UXPA code of conduct. That’s as close as I know to anything out there along those lines.


Well that’s certainly a start. I’ll have to look into UXPA. Thank you!


The things that I see frustrating people the most are a lack of understanding by many organisations about what UX is/should be. A lack of definition around roles. People being forced into unicorn positions just so they can get any kind of experience, for instance. Or people doing UI design roles that are called UX.

The employment process is also a bit broken. It’s hard to get a job without experience so people take internships that pay next to nothing. Potential employers ask people to do design challenges part of the employment process but then never give them any kind of feedback.

My personal frustration is that often my work is pushed back to the end of the priority queue because it’s viewed as ‘nice to have’ rather than a show stopper, so dev time isn’t allocated. It means that I’m often many projects down the road before I see something come to fruition.


To me, the ugly side of UX is best articulated by Mike Monteiro in his talk “How Designers Destroyed the World”.

Every designer will run into a situation where they have to tell someone off because of a questionable business decision. The sad thing is, that few people will stand up in a situation where their job is on the line. As a designer you should act like a gatekeeper and make sure that bad design doesn’t happen – no matter the cost.

The same goes for programming by the way. And I’m happy to see that questionable actions still can have consequences down to the individual level. I hope this will prompt more people to take responsibility for what they put out into the world. And yes, I’m a huge proponent of Skin in the game.


Being a last-minute thought is something I’ve both heard of and experienced a lot. It seems to be a common struggle that is present is all aspects of design. Unfortunately, there’s a big hurdle in society that people tend to think that design is simply a matter of “looking pretty.” In line with the principle of form follows function, form (“form” in the sense of both UI and UX design) is always going to be perceived as secondary, and separate, to function instead if the two being sides of the same coin.


@dougcollins and you both touched on the same issue of the ethical aspect, which has been a silent concern of mine. As designers, it seems like the big question being asked is, do moral/ethical standards have a price tag? And which is the moral high-ground: refusing to create questionable design or refusing to let your family go hungry? Very interesting issue…
I’ve put Skin in the Game on my book list :slight_smile:


Lots of great responses here already, particularly around the ethical side of design.

One of the ‘ugly’ things that you may come across is when we don’t park our ego at the door, which can then affect the way we work with our teams and the way we do our research and design. For example, I’ve come across some attitudes where the designer knows “best” and the is considered stupid for not following our recommendations.
The reality is that life is complex. There are many factors that influence the design of services and products. Some of our challenges is how do we help our teams and stakeholders make the best most informed decisions, keeping in mind that we work as a team and that there are often numerous external and internal pressures to balance. At the end of the day, we want to help our teams meet user needs, and to create useful experiences, rather than it being about implementing “my” design.


I came across this article today and it made me think of this thread. It may not be technically UX, but I think it bears considering.


When you start a UX research job and then have to do a presentation after your first week with only half the data you need.

Starting a job only to realise the company doesn’t have the dev resources to apply your work.

Spending days watching endless mouse-tracking videos with only about 6 take ways at the end of it and all minor issues you’d already figured out.


That sounds like a special kind of ugly! I’m so sorry this happened to you.


To avoid the ugly side of UX I’ve realised having self awareness and self values is important.
Why? This will make you aware of places to weed out to work for/with.
It will also make you aware of organisations out there share your values whether it is personal values or design values - and again you can avoid having to go down negative paths and truly enjoy your craft. I made this mistake as a ‘younger’ designer and said yes to things I didn’t relate, connect or agree to later on down the path and wasted quite a bit of energy to the point I decided not to design for a while. If I had spent time knowing myself what I believe in and what I should use my design super powers for. Since doing this I’ve worked with great people and much better* projects.

I know the situation sometimes doesn’t allow for this, you gotta put food on the table, but if we all started doing this from day 0, then organisations that have dark intentions / misunderstood knowledge of design and UX would either be forces to adapt or miss out on the best talent don’t you think?
While it is idealised, I think we can eventually make a difference :slight_smile:

*Better is relative, and more inline with my values/interests.