Sean Munson

Winter 2020

Redesigning YouTube to Remove Dark Patterns 

Many people express concern with the ways that social media captures their attention. Users describe being “sucked in” when they would rather be doing something else with more enduring personal value. Designers, meanwhile, employ their knowledge of psychology to “hook” users and maximize user engagement.

In this DRG, our research team will conduct walkthrough interviews with users of YouTube, one of the most popular of these social media services, to identify dark design patterns that capture attention in unwanted ways. Some of these have already been reported (e.g., autoplay and infinite scroll), but others likely still remain to be identified. Conversely, we will also use the same methods to identify light patterns that support people in using YouTube in ways that align with their enduring personal values.

In parallel, we will also design and test prototypes of a web version of YouTube that are redesigned to remove dark patterns and add light patterns. For example, one version of YouTube might feature a “search first” interface that reduces the role of “recommended videos.” Throughout the Winter quarter, we will work with a small team of developers led by a PhD student in the UW iSchool to implement the most promising of these prototypes using the YouTube API.

Planned activities:

  • Conduct walkthrough interviews with YouTube users
  • Prototype redesigned versions of the YouTube interface
  • Create design specifications and work with a team of developers to implement the most promising prototypes

Required availability:

  • Attend our 2-hour class each week: Thursdays 1-3pm (Sieg 427). The first class is on Thursday, Jan 16th.
  • Work 4 to 6 hours each week outside of meetings

To apply, please complete this form. Applications are due by Tuesday, Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. and decisions will be shared on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 8 p.m.

This DRG will be led by PhD student Kai Lukoff, with guidance from Associate Professor Sean Munson (HCDE) and Assistant Professor Alexis Hiniker (iSchool). This DRG is open to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Winter 2020

Designing to Support Clients and Therapists in Engaging with Therapeutic Activities

Many people cope with mental health challenges. In this DRG we draw on insights about how older adults work with therapists to set goals related to mental health, create activity plans to help clients engage in positive activities, and manage stressful situations outside of therapy sessions.

We seek to (1) describe the design space of opportunities to support clients and therapists in managing mental health issues through goal setting and planning, during therapy sessions and outside of therapy sessions, and (2) create low fidelity prototypes (e.g. scenarios, storyboards or design cards) for how to better support patients and therapists in the above activities. 

Requirements: Students are expected to have taken HCDE 318/518 or similar. 

Meeting time: We will meet for 90 minutes weekly. The time and day of the DRG will be decided to accommodate the schedule of accepted students and the research team. You can register for 2–3 credit hours in HCDE 496/596; for each credit, you should expect to spend about three hours of work per week outside of meeting times.

Students will work closely with PhD Student Elena Agapie, with guidance from Prof. Sean Munson. Please contact Elena Agapie ( if you have questions.

To apply, fill in this form » (Deadline: Thursday, December 12). Notifications: by Monday, December 16.  

Dr. Munson's Research Group archive