Protect and Appreciate – Notes on the Justification of User-Centered Design
Turkka Kalervo Keinonen


This article discusses whether User-Centered Design (UCD) can earn its ethical justification by satisfying users’ fundamental needs. At face value, UCD is the advocate of the user in product development, but do its practices and values address what is fundamentally important for the user? The question will be studied by first characterizing the concept of fundamental need. Next, two dimensions are formulated to describe the orientation of UCD practices towards need satisfaction. Protection dimension examines whether the practice of UCD defends users from harm. Appreciation dimension describes designers’ tendencies to appreciate users’ autonomous agency. The discussion shows that the development of UCD from a limited usability engineering paradigm towards more socially focused and interventionist user experience (UX) approaches is related to its need satisfying orientation. Finally, the two dimensions are combined to create a representation of designers’ choices with reference to user need satisfaction. The resulting Protection-appreciation space can be used as an aid for design ethical decision-making.

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