Smart, responsible design ahead for app developers? This Laurentian professor thinks so

A Laurentian University professor says he’s seeing a change in how developers approach their tech.
Aaron Langille is a professor at Laurentian University in Sudbury. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

What's next for app and video game designers?

The field has come under some scrutiny because of the addictive nature of their products.

But a Laurentian University professor says he's seeing a change in how developers approach their tech.

"I think technology as an end isn't really working out," Langille said. "So I think what's happening is that a lot of the tech designers are starting to see the problems that they didn't anticipate at the beginning."

Langille calls it a focus on "user centric design," or paying more attention to the needs of the user.

"In this case it's actually about protecting the user's health, protecting their safety," he said. "The designers are starting to say we can actually help with those problems."

Langille gives the example of Fitbits to track a user's steps, or sleep tracking on a smart watch to monitor your sleep habits.

And an encouraging sign, Langille said, is that much more of these design tweaks are coming earlier in the development stage. 

"We're starting to see some of that actually built into the design of software now as well," he said. "Periodic messages saying you should you get up and do something, you should stop playing this game. You should put this app down for a couple of minutes and go outside."

Langille is calling it a "social movement" influencing the technology industry. It's also a point he hopes to drive home to his students.

"This is something that we discuss when we're talking about video game addiction," he said.  "[We] spend a lot of time talking about alternative ways to design their games and to market their games so that we avoid those addicting psychological manipulations."

"And I think that as technology advances there is going to be more emphasis put on those responsible design aspects."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?