Every company has a balance between clean and ethical design. Is there a particular standard or is it solely based on the type of business operations? I've given a few examples to help illustrate my point.

Example 1: McDonald's Monopoly

The terms of use are found at the bottom of the screen. True, the information may be hard to find, but the information is still available. This makes clean design, but also incorporates ethical design. If you had the terms of use on the front page, the design would be poor.

McDonald's Monopoly

Example 2: My Site

I have a site where users can watch movies. Each movie has a certain amount of copies left. Each copy represents a copy our company has purchased. Do users care about this information or do they just want clean design?

NOTE: People and the government are very different. The government may try and sue us because we don't display the content correctly.

My Site

Question: What is the proper balance between clean and ethical design? I want the users to be happy, but I also want information to be freely available at the click of a button.

  • Not sure 'ethical' is the right term here. Are you implying that if you don't show certain content you are misleading the user somehow? At the core of your question, you're really asking about the user experience. You need to figure out what content your users need/want. That is what you should base your design decisions on.
    – DA01
    Mar 25, 2016 at 4:31
  • Users don't always want what they need. I need to show how many files are left to not be sued in court. Users like the website, but they don't see this information in the outcome. Is there a balance between pleasing users and also satisfying legal needs?
    – Cøde Play
    Mar 25, 2016 at 4:35
  • 1
    Sounds like your lawyer needs that...no so much your customers. :) That said, business and legal requirements are something one needs to handle. There's really no way to answer what the 'proper' balance will be as it will vary from one situation to the next.
    – DA01
    Mar 25, 2016 at 4:42
  • @DA01 At the very least, should I hide "2 Copies Left" and only display this information if a higher authority asks for it?
    – Cøde Play
    Mar 25, 2016 at 4:53
  • I don't know what legal requirements you have to work around.
    – DA01
    Mar 25, 2016 at 4:55

1 Answer 1


I think what you are trying to do is work out the interplay between business, legal, ethical and user requirements. To be honest you are probably looking at business versus user requirements and balancing that with legal versus ethical requirements. What I mean is that the business cares about meeting legal requirements, while to be user-centric you need to care about meeting ethical requirements. So if your design rationales and decisions are leaning towards business requirements, you may find that the support for ethical design is not going to be high.

However, just because you make the designs legally compliant doesn't mean that it is going to be ethical. Ethics is a big topic and covers many aspects of design. Take a look at the ethical design manifesto by Ind.ie and you'll see that there are many different layers involved.

I think in your case, you need to work out the benefit of showing this information to the user. I mean it would be frustrating to hide the information from the user because if there are no copies left then they wouldn't know why they can't download or watch the movie, so I would argue that it has both usability and legal requirements, but I am not sure what the ethical issue would be.

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