Google UX Lead on Design Thinking (Part 3)

We have an ethical responsibility to guard our well-intentioned products and users against bad actors who are seeking to cause harm. For example, security engineers constantly test for threats during the design thinking process. They try to figure out how bad actors can crack the code or destabilize a system. This exercise is an example of thinking like a villain.

As product designers, we are able to think like villains because we ask questions and act with empathy. Throughout the design process, we “walk a mile” in our primary users’ shoes to deliver value. Therefore, we can do the same thing for users that are operating with bad intentions to identify threats to our product.

With this, I will go through a set of important questions that will help your business leaders and design team think about potential threats to your product:

  1. How can my product magnify harmful behavior?
    • One bad user on a single computer is able to cause harm. As a result, it’s important to know the starting point for potential threats. Furthermore, this will help you mitigate the effects of users with bad intentions.
  2. What would happen if 1 billion people used my product?
    • For example, the security service for an online community effectively manages one bad user for every 10,000 on the platform. However, when you scale up to 1 billion users, you may not be set up to defend your product against 100,000 bad users.
  3. How can a bad actor use my product to embarrass my company or my customers?
    • As designers with good intent, our products are not designed to damage anyone’s reputation. Therefore, you should consider how users with bad intent can manipulate your product to cause harm.

Finally, you need to think about potential targets that impact your product or business. This can include users who use your product or those who are indirectly using to your platform. As a result, understanding the full scope of your product’s impact is critical to guard against threats.


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About the speaker
Matt Conway Google, Design Manager, Google Cloud Member

Matt Conway is a Design Manager at Google, leading the user experience design team for Google Cloud. In addition, Matt has developed UX designs for many leading tech companies over the past two decades - including Microsoft, Expedia and Frog.