In 2015, Nextdoor, the location-based social networking app, gained a reputation as a locus of racial profiling. Users were sending alerts for merely spotting hoodie-wearing Black men walking in their neighborhoods. One damning report described Nextdoor as “a forum for paranoid racialism—the equivalent of the nosy Neighborhood Watch appointee in a gated community.”
In studying the problem, Nextdoor realized that its easy-to-use app was partly to blame.
Creating intuitive, easy-to-use products and interfaces is the domain of user experience designers. Don’t Make Me Think is both the title of a core textbook in the field and many designers’ professional mantra. An approach called “anticipatory design” even takes the virtue of speed to the extreme, promising a system so seamless that consumers never have to make a single choice.
But the very features that are meant to make technology easier and faster to navigate—like shortcuts and auto-complete functions—can