Ethical Design: Balancing Creativity and Responsibility

In today’s digital world, user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design are essential to ensuring a website or mobile application is intuitive, user-friendly, and enjoyable. However, it’s not enough to simply design a website that looks appealing and functions properly. This article introduces and explores some of the main principles of ethical design for website projects.

Respect for Human Rights

Ethical design is a critical part of the UX/UI process and involves taking into account the moral implications of a product’s design. This means considering the impact of design decisions on the people who use the product, as well as on society as a whole. Ethical design is, at its core, focused on respecting the autonomy and dignity of individuals. It ensures that products, services, and design processes are not used to oppress or marginalize any group of people.


As a foundation for UX/UI design, usability is the degree to which a product or service can be easily understood and accessed by a user. Usability includes elements such as learnability, efficiency, memorability, errors, and satisfaction, among others. An interface's usability determines not only its visual appeal but also how well it functions.


One of the most vital ethical design principles is accessibility. Websites and applications should be designed to be accessible to everyone, regardless of their physical, sensory, or cognitive abilities. This includes designing for those with visual or hearing impairments, as well as those with motor skills challenges. This can be achieved through the use of accessible design techniques, such as providing text alternatives for images, using descriptive link text, and providing keyboard controls.

Here are some of the most common accessibility patterns:

  1. Alternative Text: Alt Text helps screen reader users understand what images, videos, and other non-text elements are communicating.
  2. Headings and subheadings: Headings help separate different sections of the website, and make it easier for people using assistive technologies to find their way around.
  3. Descriptive links and buttons: When clicking on links, the user should know where they will be taken.
  4. Colour contrast: Colours should be used in a way that meets the minimum contrast ratio requirements, making them accessible to people with colour blindness or low vision.


Going one step further, Inclusivity is another important ethical design principle. A product should be designed to be inclusive of all users, regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, age, or ability. Ethical design projects should avoid language and imagery that could potentially be offensive or exclusionary.

Quote: "The only thing that’s normal is diversity." - Sara Wachter-Boettcher

Here are a few examples of things to consider when assessing a website’s inclusivity:

  1. Include images that represent people of all races on your website.
  2. Ensure the website's navigation and content are accessible to people of all ages.
  3. Include content that reflects the perspectives of people of all orientations.
  4. Use language that is inclusive of a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
  5. Ensure all gender identities are represented in the website's content and language.
  6. Include images and content that demonstrate respect for religious beliefs.
  7. Avoid language that could be seen as exclusive to any particular social group.
  8. Consider including images and content that represent people from different countries and cultures.

Privacy and Security

Technology should be used ethically and responsibly, especially when it comes to dealing with personal data. Transparency in the design process ensures that those involved in the design process are held accountable for the decisions they make.

When using users' data, transparency and accountability are also key to ensuring that data is collected, processed, and stored responsibly. Personal data should only be used for its intended purpose and must be collected and stored securely and responsibly.

Without proper security measures in place, user data can be exposed to malicious actors, leading to identity theft, financial loss, and other types of harm. Moreover, inadequate privacy measures can leave users vulnerable to data breaches, allowing their personal information to be accessed and used without their knowledge or consent. By designing with security and privacy in mind, companies can help ensure that their users remain safe and that their personal data is not misused.

Our approach to Ethical Design

At Goat, we believe Ethical Design principles should be at the heart of every digital project. As society evolves, it is imperative to continually assess websites for their compliance with ethical design principles. If you think your website could use some help, reach out to us and we'll be more than happy to perform a design audit.

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