I have this idea for a website that is suitable for heated discussions and foolhardy opinions, but I want to keep it clean and useful. While discussing the idea with some of my friends we identified that the service could be easily subject for trolling.

Since UX design should focus on facilitating the workflow for those people that would righteously use our service, should we think about the troll and try to make it difficult for them to use the software to hassle other people?

In other words, would you, as an UX practitioner try prevent trolling by design (by analyzing troll behavior with personas) or would you just focus on correcting trolling (as most web applications and forums do).

Having some links to content backing your answer, first hand experience or examples of some sort would be great.

  • Do you have any QA / Testers on this project? I'd say it's more something that they should be working on - writing scripts to test the site is as troll-proof as possible. That could be with personas, or just standard test script practices.
    – JonW
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 12:16
  • 1
    In designing an online discussion system you should consider various classes of misuse: trolling is one; but another is the creation of 'SockPuppets' en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sockpuppet_%28Internet%29
    – PhillipW
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 17:14
  • @PhillipW, thanks for your comment (+1) I've never come across the term before.
    – edgarator
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 23:33

2 Answers 2


Yes, certainly. When you draw up use cases, you should also draw up misuse cases. There is lots of research showing that they are important and should be considered, as they can reveal lots of requirements which are normally hand waived into oblivion, until someday the application is live and the misuse case happens.

When doing misuse cases, you need to consider the actors for these misuse cases too. This means, you also have negative actors. If personas is how you have chosen to model your actors, then this is how you should work with the negative actors also. Trolls, hackers, malicious employees and their behavior are part of the discovery process for system requirements for a nice, user friendly system.

  • Can you reference some of the research you mention?
    – edgarator
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 14:02
  • @edgarator I don't have convenient access to this information right now. Ian Alexander and Andrea Herrmann are two names which come to mind having published in this field (separately), try looking for their publications and the term "misuse cases", it is very specific.
    – Rumi P.
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 9:37

When creating user personas you need to make sure to include the extremes.

In summary, your persona should aim instead to cover all the significant extremes of user behaviour or attributes as far as they are relevant to your service.

With this being said, it is also a good practice not to focus on fixing the issue but preventing it all together. If you believe this is not possible, find a way to keep the user from resorting to trolling.

Nothing seems to work better than the common flag report icon.

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