What UX decisions to make to promote civility online?



  • Folks aren't as nice online as they are in person. Trying to find ways to mitigate this, a cursory search only turns up suggestions that each user can do to be more civil online. What UX decisions should a designer make to promote civility online? The only things I could think of are to require each user to use their real face and name for their account to "humanize" everyone on the site, but I think Facebook does this with only limited success?

    Some context: I'm a teacher and I'm working online during the plague, and I want to know what design choices to make to make my class more personable/civil/human. But that's mildly irrelevant here; I'm not really a part of the UX/design community, and I'm hoping that answers to this general question will give me some insight into the design world's thoughts on online civility. And naturally if this question should be edited to be a better fit for the community, please do so 🙂



  • it's great to have teachers thinking about this. Many techniques have been tried in an attempt to promote civility; here are a few:

    • Provide a place where the "rules of the road" are established on a platform or community, so there isn't an "anything goes" feeling
    • Make users accept the "rules of the road" as a condition of having an account
    • Allow users to flag harmful posts/replies, and moderators to act on them
    • Freeze replies. This might be applied to problematic posts, or all posts after a certain age (which might not be moderated as closely)
    • Design some friction into the conversation process so users have to slow down and be more thoughtful (example: moderator approval before a reply can be shown to a controversial topic)
    • Allow the community to downvote harmful responses and potentially hide responses that have met a certain downvote threshold
    • Algorithms can automatically push down or hide responses with certain words, though users often quickly find ways to get around this
    • Allow users to block each other and not see posts by blocked users
    • Provide badges for good behaviors / online citizenship

    Overall, UX design can be used to reward behaviors that are desirable, and discourage behaviors that are unwanted. It gets trickier in places where users have to interact with each other and can't be banned, like a school forum. In those cases, there might be other levers to engage, such as ties to grades or disciplinary actions.



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