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What designers can do about internet addiction

What designers can do about internet addiction



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Internet Addiction Disorder

Unlike chemical addictions that may come to mind more easily, Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is not caused by a substance. It is part of behavioural addictions, along with gambling disorder, gaming disorder, and more. That doesn’t make it less serious, and it can still dramatically affect some...

There are several IAD tests that you can find online, but you can mostly tell addiction from bad habits with the following:

  • One’s Internet use negatively affects other areas of their life, yet they keep at it
  • They plan their life around their time online
  • They can’t cont...

Persuasive design is the technology that “changes” human behaviour. Ethics related to persuasion is about to what extent we may influence the behaviour and thoughts of our users.

How do we identify persuasive design? Here are some powerful questions to guide our assessment:

  • What ...

User benefit is an interesting dimension to look at, but it’s not a criterion to categorise a design pattern as non-persuasive or non-addictive. Resorting to persuasive mechanisms can be framed as being in the user’s best int...

Is the persuasion used to align user behaviour with goals that they themselves explicitly selected?

Let’s look at the recommendations YouTube makes after you finished watching a video.

What if, instead of pushing the video most people watched next — which can be 

Addictive design can bring a variety of burdens into someone’s life. An obvious one is spending more time online than they wanted to, but the drawbacks can also consist of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and a sense of isolation, a drop in happiness levels, self-esteem and body image issues, dopamine ...

The variable rewards used by many online platforms keep us scrolling or returning to a product because they provide us with dopamine surges we get hooked on. For instance, displaying an image feed with very aesthetically pleasing items next to ones we’re indifferent to, or sending completely irre...

You should only display that there is only 2 items left in stock, or only 4 hours left to participate in something, if it’s truthful and relevant.

Social media stories also create a sense of urgency: ...

These can be used persuasively. Testimonials are useful, but some metrics don’t make any sense. Here are the “Top Rankings” from AliExpress, displaying the amount of followers a product has, the number of times it was ordered, and how many people have expressed interest in it. As you’ve noticed, ...

Do you remember when we didn’t have a “seen” icon in messaging apps? Good old times. Have you ever felt more pressure to reply because of it? Do you feel that you need to reply faster and not “leave them on read” (we use such a telling expression)? Does it stay on your mind until you do so?

Obligations are often artificially created by streaks, that many platforms use, nudging people into visiting them daily. The bigger the commitment, the bigger the pressure: if you are to lose your streak, a 3-day one doesn’t take as long to rebuild as a 256-day one.

Contrary to reciprocatio...

Inserting natural stops in the experience is a good way to avoid people being stuck in a ludic loop, which is an addictive pattern. You could use pagination instead of infinite scroll, or at least re...

Gamification consists of incorporating game mechanics into non-gaming software. Its whole point is to ignite dopamine surges with frequent rewards.

Gamification is particularly bad when it looks like this:

  • Created your account on the app? You get a badge for signing up!
  • T...

We’re all familiar with being caught up in an article and when a pop-in suddenly blocks our view and asks us to subscribe to a newsletter. And how about being stopped dead in our tracks to download an app when we’re using a mobile site, as Reddit does?

These nudging interruptions can be fru...

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