"It takes time for a discipline to develop its own design values. Web design is a young discipline indeed. While we slowly begin to form our own set of guiding principles, we can look to other disciplines for inspiration.
The world of architecture has accrued its own set of design values over the years. One of those values is the principle of material honesty. One material should not be used as a substitute for another. Otherwise the end result is deceptive."
Our design practice is not yet sufficiently advanced to handle what economists call the ‘externalities’ of tech (somewhat misleadingly, as if an iceberg’s tip is ‘external’ to the rest of the iceberg.) The relentless focus on ‘the user’, which has driven so much product and process improvement over the last two decades, is also the blindspot of the digitally-oriented design practices. They can only look up from the homescreen blankly, through the narrowly focused lens of ‘the user’, when asked to assess the wider impact of such services when aggregated across the city.
For example, judged from a pure interaction design practice point-of-view, Uber is clearly an exemplary user experience. Yet judged from a wider urban design point-of-view, its impact appears to be hugely damaging, with vast numbers of vehicles incentivised to drive into the middle of cities, apparently leading to increased congestion and reduced public transport use. Seeing like a system, it looks like a product designed to get drivers onto the road, at the expense of more sustainable options. Needless to say, this is literally the opposite of what most city governments are trying to achieve at this point. In effect, Uber works for the individual – a car is always within range – precisely because it does not work for the city, as the streets are deliberately congested with drivers.