Implementing user-friendly default settings

Posted by Leena Simon on October 17, 2013

Here at Commons Machinery we have been thinking about default software settings lately. The software we are building is supposed to work seamlessly and technology that works seamlessly is software you (as the user) should not have to worry about. This is why, it is important for developers to constantly consider the default settings.

Getting the settings right is a big part of using technology — even though many of us never bother with them. Because it gets quite complicated to stay on top of which application does what. Does my smartphone give some company access to private information because of some app I installed? Does my browser keep me in some sort of filter bubble because I did not uncheck some box in the personal settings?

As technology plays an increasingly bigger part in our lives, the more of a sisyphean task it becomes to familiarise ourselves with the detailed settings of all the software and hardware we use. This would most likely leave us without time to use the actual technology. Even if we did take the time to go through all the settings of the technology in our everyday lives (which I highly recommend by the way), most of us would probably not understand half of them.

This is why it is so important that the settings with which a piece of technology comes are user-friendly. Software designers and developers have to take the time to consider how the settings should be — in order to provide software which is in the best interest of the user.
This means to intervene as little as possible in the users privacy and self-determination.

For example: Assuming that most people would not like to share photos with random companies, the best-case scenario would be that if downloading an app to your phone the default setting is that the app cannot access your photos. In the case that the app you installed actually needs access to your photos, you can allow this manually.

The default should always guarantee the user the most control over her data and technology. This should not require extra action. You could of course also give up some control voluntarily, but in that case you actively have to allow the application to do so.

We at Commons Machinery want to make attribution happen automatically and seamlessly. We do not want to take your control away, while making attribution simple and easy. We want you to stay responsible for your actions when using our software.