In the "fundamental tenets of design" thread, I had written as my
third rule "Don't lie" (right after the similar "Show sleazebags the
door."). I really believe that, and as interaction designers I think
we run into this question far more often than we think.
Apparently lying to the user is fundamental to at least one business
sector: Mobile phones.
Mark Hurst writes  that mobile phone companies lie to their users
in several pretty big ways:
1) The signal-strength bars on your phone usually exaggerate the
strength of the signal.
2) The batter strength indicator also exaggerates the power left in
Both lies serve the same purpose: To encourage people to use their
phones. Apparently, people don't use their phones as much when the
signal is weak or their battery is low, so by lying they drive up the
Some people, including Mark, speculate that the carriers also use
dreadfully long voicemail system messages to drive up minutes (ever
call someone on Sprint? It takes 45 seconds to actually get to leave
a message, which I suppose helps your provider, not Sprint
necessarily -- maybe there's industry collusion there, too).
Obviously all of these decisions are GREAT for business. I can easily
imagine that if all of these practices were stopped, phone usage
overall would decline by a few percentage points, which could make
the difference between profitability and losing money for the company
as a whole. And users don't seem to mind -- what they don't know
doesn't hurt them, right?
What do you think? Would you ever design a system this way, putting
the business's needs above the user's needs? Even to the point of
lying to the user?
Those of you in the mobile device business, are you familiar with