Short History Of Dark Patterns

The word dark pattern was coined by Harry Brignull in August 2010 after the boom of e-commerce industries on the web.

What does Harry Brignull have to say about dark patterns?
  • He defined it as “a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things, such as buying insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills.”
  • On his website, he said  “when you use the web, you don’t read every word on every page – you skim read and make assumptions. If a company wants to trick you into doing something, they can take advantage of this by making a page look like it is saying one thing when it is, in fact, saying another.”

In simple terms, the usage of dark patterns leaves the users on the losing end and put the company on the benefit side and this forfeit the whole essence of a good user experience.

Why do Companies use Dark Patterns?

According to Career Foundry

In theory, a UX designer’s job is to champion the user, creating user interfaces that enable them to seamlessly navigate through information and tasks. In practice, however, UX designers work for managers who are focused on growth and numbers, leading them to demand designers implement dark patterns. The managers’ reasoning is simple: dark patterns work, at least in the short-term. And for managers tasked with meeting specific metrics, like doubling the number of user accounts on a social media platform, using dark patterns enables them to meet that goal quickly without having to spend time coming up with a solution that would appeal to users.

Types of Dark Patterns with Examples
Source: Career Foundry

Bait and Switch

As the name suggests, this pattern occurs when a user takes an action expecting one outcome, but instead something else happens. Windows customers ran into a bait and switch in 2016 when clicking on the “X” button of a pop-up asking users to update to Windows 10. But instead of closing the pop-up as expected, clicking the “X” started the update. Given up until this point, “X” was synonymous with “close,” users did exactly what they thought they should to get rid of the pop-up. Microsoft’s exploitation of this standard behavior understandably created a backlash with its users.

Hidden Cost

This dark pattern happens when, during the final step of an e-commerce check-out process, additional fees and other costs are added to your order.

Roach Motel

This was named after the product that lures roaches in but makes it impossible for them to get out. This technique makes it easy to sign up for something and really hard to unsubscribe. This used to be a huge problem with email newsletters, but changes to many regulations have made it illegal in many countries not to offer an obvious unsubscribe button. That being said, it still happens more than you might think.

The goal is to get the user to opt into doing something, like sharing their email or signing up for a newsletter, by making the alternative choice sound undesirable. For example, an e-commerce site might offer a discount on a users’ first order in exchange for their email address. If the user doesn’t want to share their email address, they have to click on an option that says something like, “No thank you, I don’t like saving money.”

Trick Questions

You’ve likely filled out many forms on websites and apps, which has made you comfortable skimming them and making assumptions about the information you’re being asked to provide. This dark pattern takes advantage of this by tricking users into answering a question in a way they didn’t intend. For example, have you ever clicked a red button to stop only to find that red actually meant “proceed” and green was “exit”?

In short, another word for dark pattern is “manipulation”.

Why do you think companies shouldn’t use dark patterns?
  • It forfeits the whole essence of a good user experience.
  • It makes a company to lose it’s users.

In conclusion, instead of using dark patterns, UX designers should argue for treating customers with respect by giving them choices that are transparent and clear enough. Although this might not bring fast results but it provides  lasting results.

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