They are everywhere. Small tricks with websites, apps, and pop-ups and forms that “trick” you into performing an action online.
These so-called dark patterns have a negative effect on the user experience, frustrate website visitors and should be avoided. (The little “benefit” you get from someone clicking the wrong thing is really not good for you.)
Here’s an overview of the dark patterns, with plenty of example, so you know these design issues and keep them out of your websites.
What is a dark pattern?
Although dark patterns appear in images all over the web, there isn’t much room to talk about them. Some of the best information comes from darkpatterns.org. The site depicts a dark pattern like this.
“When you use the Internet, you don’t read every word on every page – you skip reading and make assumptions. If a company wants to trick you into doing something, it can take advantage of this by making the page look like it says one thing when it actually says another. “
There is a real ethical issue with the use of design technology that deliberately tricks users into doing something they don’t want to do. This policy also artificially boosts your analysis with clicks or hits that users did not intend to make. (So your reporting will be pretty skewed.)
Hoa Loranger, executive vice president of UX consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group, said this about dark patterns in an article Fast Company magazine: “Any short-term profits that a company makes from a dark model will be lost in the long run.”
Types of dark patterns
In general, dark patterns can be grouped into five categories of deceptive design tactics.
- Intentional wrong direction: Design causes users to intentionally focus on one thing as a distraction from something else. Usually this is done by disclosing unintentional information to the website. But the most common forms of misleading are awkward formatting, a common non-button switch confirmation or formatting seems to be just one “correct” answer. This is a common technology in applications and games where the “buy more” credit option is a big button and the “no thanks” option is small and hard to touch. (Note in the example above that the more interesting visual button, including the first option, is the payment button. This pop-up came up by clicking the “free download” button. It’s a clear trick.)
- Hidden ads: When an ad appears to have content or navigation to get users to click on it.
- Forced continuity: Read the small edition; many free trials end up with ongoing charges. To avoid this dark pattern, don’t charge for everything that’s free.
- Growth through spam: Linking an email address or social media account to a website – so you can find your friends to play a game, etc. – and then spamming everyone with the information is a clear dark pattern. This can provide a lot of immediate growth for a site that uses a dark template when it looks like you’re actually sending spam emails or messages to contacts.
- Hidden costs: The extra products that appear in the shopping cart, or the hidden charges that are at the end of the funnel, are a dark pattern that isn’t as common as before, but it still happens. More commonly, websites try to prevent you from redeeming coupon or promotional codes – they are valid but then drop off at checkout or when you view other products. (See the GoDaddy example below. Add a domain to your cart, click checkout, and your privacy will be added automatically unless you turn it off.)
Darkpatterns.org includes these types of dark patterns (some with more catchy names) and more, but they all fall into these areas. You will find them here.
Knowing whether or not you should adopt design tactics involves a lot of ethical issues. If you’re worried that something might be awkward, than it probably is.
Do you want your website or business to be known for this reason? Or would you prefer to be at the forefront and create user loyalty with a reliable design that users like?
The answer may seem easy, but there are so many large companies that have used (and continue to use) dark patterns.
- Think of the websites you visit all the time: how many times the button you want to click has been hard to find. (As in the example above Confirms Tumblr’s shame.)
- Think email newsletters: Should you look for an unsubscribe button just to get a “scam” for another subscription option?
- Think of the “x” sign to close an ad or exit a pop-up: How often are these options small or incredibly difficult to tap or click to close? And how many times have you accidentally clicked?
These models are everywhere.
Before you adopt any of these models, put it in an ethical context:
- Is the technology necessary to get users to perform the desired function? (If so, it’s probably a dark pattern.)
- Are you tricking users into doing something they wouldn’t normally do? (If so, it’s probably a dark pattern.)
- Does this model frustrate or hate users when they get to the next step? (If so, it’s probably a dark pattern.)
- I would like people to know what is behind my analysis or report? (If not, it’s probably a dark pattern.)
#Darkpatterns is being tracked
Users will find excellent dark patterns online. And sending them for all to see. Here are some of the most outrageous examples # black patterns On Twitter.
There is no reason to use dark patterns in the design. There is always a user-friendly and more ethical solution.
Avoid misleading by designing elements using common usage practices. The links should look like links. The buttons should look like buttons. Do not confuse and match buttons and text link buttons to equal functions of a single element (such as yes and no). Do not change the formatting of the element midway through the user’s journey; consistent design is more transparent.
Don’t hide ads or links. Each element should display and follow generally accepted user patterns.
Forget all the small weights. Be upfront about costs and terms. Don’t ask for payment for free trials – go back and request payment when the free period ends. Cheating users to use a service or product is not great.
Some tools need to communicate with user contacts in order to function the way users expect. This is OK. But protect and value this information. Do not use it in any other way.
Use pre-pricing in everything. If you do not want or expect users to receive discounts or promotional codes, do not offer them. Never add anything to the cart. It is permissible to ask users if they want the add-on, but do not force the problem.
While there are dark patterns everywhere – we’ll bet you’ll start to recognize more of them after reading this article – don’t get used to them. There is no long-term benefit to your design.
Build a loyal and valuable user or customer base by designing with confidence and don’t fool users into doing what they don’t want.