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Explainer: Data Education & Awareness

Leveraging Context in Design

What we decide to share with a digital service changes drastically based on context. These changing contexts present a design opportunity.

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Behind the scenes, digital services can be (very) complicated.

Services try to make these complicated technical features feel simple and easy.

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Think about how many decisions we make whenever we start using a new service.

Some of those decisions are easier to make than others

This creates some tension.

We all want simple, friendly, easy-to-use digital services while also understanding exactly what 
data we'll be offering in exchange.

Hello.

How do we design for both?

How can we signpost the road to understanding, while still quickly getting people where they want to go?

Here’s one way of thinking about how we can structure data and privacy information throughout the user experience:

Imagine you're going on a road trip...

...but you get all the directions before you even turn the engine on.

This is what often happens with digital services. We’re asked to absorb a lot of information up front.

And while it’s great to be informed, we’re often just impatient to get going.

Now imagine this:

You're driving to your destination.

But you start feeling a little unsure about the route, so you pull over to check the map.

In digital services, the settings menu gives us some on-demand control over what data we're sharing and how it's being used.

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But we don't go to the settings menu everyday. It can be hard to find, difficult to understand, and – frankly – just not a priority.

Now, imagine that you're driving and you're using the street signs to navigate.

This is really useful, because you're getting the right information at the right time.

And imagine how useful it would be if those signs were aware of what you were trying to do and able to respond?

Design that understands our context means we’re forced to learn less, but can understand more.

In digital services, presenting data and privacy information in context, alongside the main experience, can help us make more informed choices.

So here's three ways that digital services can embed a data disclosure moment into the main experience.

Up front

Immediate disclosure should be the simplest and most straightforward, in theory. It gives people the clearest choice.

But upfront disclosure isn't always as helpful as you'd think. People are already overloaded with new information and want to get going.

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On demand

A settings menu can feel like an easy solution, but the accessibility and discoverability make it challenging.

This option asks people to go out of their way, requiring a level of expertise and knowledge in order to engage.

In context

By offering assistance in context, we can embed learning moments wherever they're most relevant. Technical execution can be more complex, yes–but it means we can truly help people navigate their path.

Providing the right information, at the right time - or in context - is one powerful tool we can use in order to design for better trust, transparency and control.

Designing for context requires multiple degrees of consideration, yes. But when done well, we can educate people through a compelling educational experience.

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