Self vs. together

A lot of the experiences we design today revolve around doing things yourself.

  • A photo app to make selfies.
  • A self-scan checkout at the supermarket.
  • Opening a bank account yourself, online or with an app
  • Logging into a Corona-app to activate a QR-code, yourself.

Self, self, self.

But it’s an illusion to think that people can do everything themselves. So why do we design this way? I don’t believe being completely self-reliant should be a goal in itself. You could even say that the whole purpose of life is to do things together.

How would a camera-app work if it was meant to be used together? How would a banking app work if it was meant to be used together? And how would the Dutch QR-app CoronaCheck work, if it was meant to be set up together?

Or if that would at least be an option?

My father wanted to add his booster vaccination to the CoronaCheck-app, and update his QR-code. He already knew he could do this with DigiD (the way of logging in to digital government services in The Netherlands). He managed to start the task on his own but ran into a weird error when he logged in. He did absolutely nothing wrong, but the computer said no. Sometimes they do that. On his own, he probably would have left it at that. Luckily, this was during Christmas, and his son-in-law was there to help him, using an alternative way to use DigiD.

But what about other people who have to figure digital things out by themselves? Who don’t have others around them to help? We are in a lockdown after all. Even without a global pandemic, there are millions of people who really struggle with digital services and are left on their own.

It’s time that as designers, we don’t just design for ‘self-use-cases’, but also think about how we can let people complete tasks together.

I hope I am not alone in this.

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