Do you notice if you’re getting manipulated by dark UX patterns when you browse through the online world? Here are the most common tricks that you should know about.
Have you ever tried to shop online and suddenly realised your cart has an extra item added to it? Used half an hour trying to cancel a subscription or accidentally opened an ad that you were trying to close?
These frustrating experiences are created using dark user experience (UX) patterns – carefully designed to manipulate you into taking a path that you didn’t intend to. Fx. – descriptions that confuse instead of explain, colors that deliberately misdirect you or pop-ups, banners, and flashy messages that bully you into taking action RIGHT AWAY!
Unfortunately, some dark UX patterns are used even by big brands, like Amazon, Etsy, Bookings.com, Linkedin, Facebook, and many more, making these experiences pretty much unavoidable, so our best defense is to simply be aware of them.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common dark UX patterns, their examples and why should you stay away from these practices when establishing your own digital presence.
Confirmshaming is a strategy often used to convince people to subscribe to a newsletter or a premium feature by making the user feel guilty. The decline option is often formulated in a way that, while on one hand, it sounds fun and edgy, it still shames users for not taking the “the amazing opportunity”.
2. Roach Motel
In this pattern, the signing up part is usually extremely easy. However, getting out of the service is frustrating and almost seemingly impossible. This dark pattern is most commonly used when trying to cancel or downgrade a subscription, unsubscribe from a newsletter, or delete an account.
Here is a good example of the use of this pattern – to close an account created online, Stamps.com asks you to call their customer service at specific hours. A simple task is turned into a frustrating challenge – much longer than it needs to be.
3. Trick Questions and misdirection
Some websites use confusing language and misleading series of checkboxes to trick you into giving an answer you didn’t intend to. This is a very common pattern used in sign-up forms.
Usually, we expect to agree to something when checking a box, but this is not the case with trick question patterns. When glanced upon quickly a statement or question might seem like one thing, however, when read carefully, it actually means the exact opposite.
We use websites and applications daily, which makes us accustomed to a certain visual language. Some marketers take advantage of this and use colors to purposefully misdirect users into taking a choice they don’t want.
4. Fake urgency
Have you ever tried to shop online, suddenly getting bombarded with little pop-ups and messages like “5 other people are looking at this” or “this offer runs out in 2 hours”. It’s only natural that it makes you feel like you are about to miss a great deal if you don’t act immediately.
There are different ways websites use these patterns to create a fake sense of urgency and fear of missing out. The frustrating fact is that in most cases – it’s only a marketing trick. The 10 people that have your favorite item in the cart might not even be real and the “limited time offer” will still be there once the countdown hits 0.
5. Disguised ads
As the name suggests – these ads are disguised under seemingly other types of content or navigation that are part of the same website. The main role of these patterns is to confuse the users and make them click on the ad.
Overload of buttons on web pages aren’t the only way to hide sneaky ads, marketers become more and more creative – just look at this genius and absolutely evil example: A fake hair added to an Instagram story, making you swipe to clean your screen by a reflex, as a result – smoothly landing on the companies webshop.
There are, of course, many more types of dark UX patterns used around the web. You can find a neat little overview of the most common categories as well as a feed of the latest examples on the Hall of Shame of the darkpatterns website.
Why are dark patterns around?
The simple answer is – because, unfortunately, they work. These patterns are great at taking advantage of our already formed assumptions and mental models of how things should work and navigate online. They exploit moments when we aren’t careful or pay enough attention and play on our emotions through a forced sense of urgency.
However, even though dark patterns can boost your short-term profits, long-lasting relationships are based on trust and good experiences.
It’s just a matter of time before a competitor comes along who provides a better experience. If your business depends on Dark Patterns to succeed, you’re just leaving yourself open to being disrupted.Harry Brignull
If you are trying to build a reliable image online, your web presence should reflect this goal. So, instead of using dark UX, value transparency and design user journeys with your user goals in focus. User interface is the language we communicate with our users online. Use the layouts, colors, and language to guide your users to successfully finding what they are looking for, instead of bullying and tricking them into buying, subscribing, and agreeing to more than they intended to.
When we want to build trust in our brand, it’s our responsibility to make sure visitors have a good experience on our website, application, digital platform, and even our social media. Aim to build a loyal, returning customer base instead of angry reviews on Trustpilot.
If you are interested in learning about how to design ethically humane digital products focused on user well-being, check out: https://humanebydesign.com/