What is a dark pattern?
A dark pattern is a user interface carefully crafted to trick users into doing things they might not otherwise do, such as buying insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills. Normally when you think of “bad design,” you think of the creator as being sloppy or lazy — but without ill intent. Dark patterns, on the other hand, are not mistakes. They're carefully crafted with a solid understanding of human psychology, and they do not have the user’s interests in mind.
Harry Brignull is credited with coining the phrase 'dark patterns' and has a website dedicated to 'naming and shaming websites that use deceptive user interfaces'!
Types of dark patterns:
I am pretty sure we have all encountered one or the other of these 14 types (according to Brugnull) of dark patterns -
Bait and Switch ›
You set out to do one thing, but a different, undesirable thing happens instead.
Disguised Ads ›
Adverts that are disguised as other kinds of content or navigation, in order to get you to click on them.
Forced Continuity ›
When your free trial with a service comes to an end and your credit card silently starts getting charged without any warning. In some cases, this is made even worse by making it difficult to cancel the membership.
Friend Spam ›
The product asks for your email or social media permissions under the pretense it will be used for a desirable outcome (e.g. finding friends), but then spams all your contacts in a message that claims to be from you.
Hidden Costs ›
You get to the last step of the checkout process, only to discover some unexpected charges have appeared, e.g. delivery charges, tax, etc.
The design purposefully focuses your attention on one thing in order to distract your attention from another.
Price Comparison Prevention ›
The retailer makes it hard for you to compare the price of an item with another item, so you cannot make an informed decision.
Privacy Zuckering ›
You are tricked into publicly sharing more information about yourself than you really intended to. Named after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Roach Motel ›
The design makes it very easy for you to get into a certain situation, but then makes it hard for you to get out of it (e.g. a subscription).
Sneak into Basket ›
You attempt to purchase something, but somewhere in the purchasing journey the site sneaks an additional item into your basket, often through the use of an opt-out radio button or checkbox on a prior page.
Trick Questions ›
You respond to a question, which, when glanced upon quickly appears to ask one thing, but if read carefully, asks another thing entirely.
What does this mean for us?
At EdLab, we have been careful to ensure we don't design or develop any such dark patterns. But we can always do better and ensure nothing creeps in, either intentionally or unintentionally!
For our new designs, we have to be mindful of these good and dark patterns and check everything, including the wordings we use or the design and position of buttons or notifications and confirmation boxes, etc.
We should also audit our old and existing websites, applications, and services. How are we handling the availability of services across platforms? What about subscription and unsubscription from newsletters? How can we better handle the process of deleting accounts and activity, and of auto-renewal of services? Are our terms of service up to date and clear?
What are your experiences with dark patterns? Do you have any memorable ones to share?
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