Designed to control rather than enable

As Cory Doctorow says, “Your home and life are increasingly full of devices that seek to control, rather than enable you.”

That, succinctly, is what this website’s about: design as something to restrict and control the user, rather than empower and enable. Products that enable you to do less. Products that force you to interact with them in a way which (often) serves someone else’s interest rather than your own.


  1. It’s worth noting that sometimes being controlled is a good thing – in traffic, for example, it’s only possible to drive peacefully because we have lights and lines that tell us where to be, and laws to back them up. This is a form of control, but it’s one that makes driving possible. In other cases, controls are in place to keep us out of danger or from making mistakes. A software confirmation message prior to executing a critical action, designed to psychologically engage a person’s fear of loss, is an effective form of controlling against a serious mistake, and I think that’s not a bad thing.

    The kinds of controls that Cory is talking about are, I think, not the kind I’m talking about above, so his point is well taken. But I think it’s worth noting, and if I can suggest, blogging about controls that actually help people rather than push them around to meet the business goals of vendors.

  2. Dan

    Thanks Todd – of course, you’re right. I’ve tried to look at some of these in the past, especially forcing functions and mistake-proofing (poka-yoke) but it’s true that recent posts have tended towards “pushing people around to meet business goals” rather than helping people “making systems work smoothly” or “keeping people safe”. I’ll try to remedy that!

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