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How Do Tech Companies Use Design Tricks To Keep You Hooked?

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Ever find yourself losing track of time while you’re on your phone? Well, that’s not by accident. Our favorite apps are intentionally designed to keep us on them as long as possible so tech companies can gather data from us about what we like and engage with. This user data is a valuable commodity that they then sell to advertisers and use to improve their algorithms and user features. But what design tricks are these app companies using, and what is the impact on us?

This episode of Above the Noise is a special collaboration with  Common Sense Education and Harvard’s Center for Digital Thriving.

TEACHERS: Guide your students to practice civil discourse about current topics and get practice writing CER (claim, evidence, reasoning) responses. Explore lesson supports.  

What are design tricks?

Design tricks are the ways tech companies use user interface design features to grab our attention. This can be a number of things such as; infinite scroll (scrolling that never ends)sound notifications, the heart or thumbs-up icon that appears when you like a post, the text bubble that pops up when someone is typing, and many more.


What is the history of UX design?

In the 90’s as a graduate student at Stanford, BJ Fogg ran the first-ever series of experiments to discover how computers could change people’s attitudes and behaviors. The idea behind Fogg’s work is that computers can be designed so that they influence the behavior of the people who use them. This is called “User Experience” (UX) or “User Interface” (UI). Around the same time, Google was discovering if they analyzed search history, they could help with spelling errors in searches as they continued to explore this data they realized it had surprising power to predict things about us.

What’s the impact of these design tricks?

Design tricks are used to keep people on their devices for as long as possible so tech companies can collect user data that they can sell to third-party companies for profit. It’s a big part of how companies make their money. However, these tricks aren’t just keeping us glued to our devices; they can also heavily influence our thoughts and ideas about ourselves and the way we see the world around us. This can be especially true for younger people who have grown up having so much access to information with social media.


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