Dark Patterns

Building trust with customers is the cornerstone of any business’s marketing strategy.  In previous posts we’ve mentioned the importance of UX design for businesses and how a well-made website can inspire consumer confidence and loyalty. Now we want to take a look at how businesses and designers shouldn’t use UX design, we believe that there should be ethics in the application of web design. The term “Dark Pattern” refers to a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing terms such as buying insurance with your purchase or signing up for recurring bills. It’s a fairly new term in the world of design and was first coined by UX designer Harry Brignull in 2010, who sought to raise awareness of this issue among designers and users so that we could all enjoy a higher standard from the websites we use.  Here we’d just like to highlight the most common Dark Patterns used by companies to manipulate users so that you can avoid them in your own designs and achieve success without manipulating your users in nefarious ways. Here are some of the most prevalent patterns in modern websites:

 

Roachmotel

A roach motel is a pest control trap that is easy for the roach to get in but impossible to get out. Think of any time you’ve tried to delete a social media account; the sign-up process was so easy but the delete account button is hidden behind walls of drop-down menus at the bottom of pages or aren’t visible at all. Concealing any feature on a website is a bad sign, everything on the site should be easily accessible with a few clicks and you shouldn’t have to go searching for it.

Bait-and-Switch

Bait-and-Switch patterns advertise a free or greatly reduced price for a product or service that is unavailable. After announcing the product is unavailable the page presents similar products of a higher price or lower quality. This is a case of flagrant false advertising.

 

Misdirection

This design purposely focuses your attention on one thing in order to distract your attention from another. This is extremely common in software installation where the user when downloading a program sees a prominent button asking to accept the terms and conditions of an unrelated software program. The process for installing the desired program with the unrelated program is less prominently displayed or else seems counter intuitive. There should be no misdirection in UX design, users should always know what they’re getting.

Confirmshaming

This is a form of guilt tripping the user into opting into something. For example, the wording of the option to decline is phrased in such a way as to shame the user into compliance.

Privacy Zuckering

 Named in honour of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. This design pattern tricks the user into sharing more information about yourself than you really intended to.  This can be done by concealing the data terms and conditions or making them difficult to find.

 

We believe that you should always interact with your users in an honest and open way. UX Design is a powerful tool in which you control all aspects of the users experience and interaction with the site, you must use this power with respect. If you use these patterns you will be tricking and manipulating your users, you’ll destroy any trust between you and your users. We should all demand a higher standard from our websites and the first step towards this is educating users.