13 Dark Patterns in UX Design and How To Avoid Them

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13 Dark Patterns in UX Design and How To Avoid Them

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Welcome to our blog where we’ll talk about dark patterns in User Experience (UX) design. UX design is all about making digital stuff easy and fun to use. But sometimes, designers use sneaky tricks called dark patterns to make you do things you don’t really want to do.

Dark patterns are like traps in the digital world. They’re cleverly made to fool you into doing stuff you didn’t mean to do. Imagine clicking on a button thinking it’ll take you to one place, but it actually signs you up for something you don’t want. That’s a dark pattern.

Harry Brignull, the guy who came up with this term, says dark patterns are designed to trick you. They mess with your mind and make you do stuff without even realizing it. They can even use your personal info to sell you things you might not need.

Companies use dark patterns to make more money or get more people to buy their stuff. But it’s not cool because it can make you feel tricked and unhappy.

In this blog, we’ll talk about 13 common dark pattern tactics. We’ll also share tips on how to spot them and avoid getting caught in their traps. And most importantly, we’ll talk about why it’s important for designers to be ethical and honest in their work. That way, everyone can have a better and fairer online experience.

Dark Patterns: Unveiling the Deception

While navigating the vastness of the internet, users often encounter cleverly devised traps set by UX designers. In UX design, there are traps known as ‘dark patterns’ that aim to manipulate individuals into taking actions they didn’t intend to or strongly influence them to choose something they don’t want. An instance of a dark pattern is a deceptive pop-up that requests personal information before granting access to the desired content.

The term ‘dark patterns’ was created by Harry Brignull, a UX designer. It describes user interfaces that are intentionally designed to deceive and manipulate user behaviour, often without the user even realizing it. These dark patterns may exploit users’ personal information to market specific products or services. Companies or designers use dark patterns in UX to boost profits or increase conversions. This article will shed light on the 13 most prevalent dark patterns in UX, accompanied by actionable tips on how to shield yourself from their influence.

Types of Dark Patterns in UX

Dark patterns come in various shapes and sizes, each aiming to ensnare users in their snares. Below, we elaborate on 13 commonly used dark patterns, empowering you, as a netizen, to protect your privacy, personal information, and financial interests while optimising your user experience.

1.Bait and Switch

Imagine you’re shopping online and you see a really cool jacket at a super low price. Excited, you add it to your cart, but when you go to pay, the price suddenly goes up! That’s the bait-and-switch trick.

It’s like when a website tricks you by showing one thing to get your attention, but when you’re ready to buy, they change it to something else. This can leave you feeling frustrated and tricked.

This trick is common in online shopping. They might show you a great deal, but when you’re about to buy, they change the price or product. For example, you might see a shirt at a big discount, but when you go to buy it, the discount disappears, and you have to pay the full price.

To avoid falling for this trick, always double-check the final price before buying. Also, read product descriptions carefully and compare prices on different websites to make sure you’re getting a fair deal. That way, you won’t get fooled by the bait-and-switch!

2.Roach Motel

Imagine you’re trying out a new online service with a free trial. It seems great at first, but when the trial ends, canceling it becomes a real headache. That’s the roach motel trick!

It’s like checking into a hotel easily, but when you want to leave, the doors are locked, and you can’t find the way out. This dark pattern makes it tough to cancel a service or return a product. Companies make it easy to sign up, but when you try to leave, it’s like a maze, wasting your time and money.

This trick is common with subscriptions and online services. You might sign up for a free trial, but when you want to cancel, it’s like going through a maze. You have to click through lots of menus and hidden options, making it hard to leave. This can make you pay for something you didn’t want in the first place!

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To avoid getting stuck in the roach motel, always read the terms and conditions before signing up for anything. Make sure you understand how to cancel if you need to. Look for services with easy cancellation processes, so you don’t get trapped!

3. Hidden Costs

Imagine you’re shopping online, and you see something you really want at a super low price. Excited, you add it to your cart, but when you go to pay, you find out there are extra costs you didn’t know about, like shipping or taxes. That’s the hidden costs trick!

This sneaky trick hides extra charges until you’re about to pay. It’s like finding a great deal, but then, when you’re ready to buy, you see the real price is much higher because of hidden fees. This happens a lot on online shopping websites.

For example, you might see a cool gadget at a really cheap price. You think it’s a steal, so you add it to your cart. But when you’re about to pay, you find out there are extra fees, like shipping or taxes, that you didn’t see before. It can be really frustrating!

To avoid falling for hidden costs, always check if there are any extra fees before you buy something online. Look for the total price, including all fees, before you decide to make a purchase. That way, you won’t get surprised by any hidden costs!

4. Forced Continuity

This dark pattern forces users to provide personal information to access content or claim a free trial, leaving them with no alternative but to comply. For example, a website may demand payment information before allowing users to access free content or continue using the site.

The forced continuity dark pattern exploits users’ desire for free content or trial offers. By mandating personal information, such as credit card details, the website gains valuable data for future marketing or billing purposes.

To avoid being ensnared by forced continuity, users should exercise caution when providing personal information to access free content or trials. They can also look for alternative platforms that offer similar content without demanding such information upfront.

5. Disguised Ads

Imagine you’re scrolling through a website or using an app, and you see something interesting. But when you click on it, you realize it’s actually an ad! That’s what we call disguised ads.

Disguised Ads

These sneaky ads are designed to look like regular content, tricking you into clicking on them. They’re everywhere online, from websites to social media. Companies do this to make their ads blend in with the stuff you’re already looking at, so you’re more likely to click on them.

For example, you might see a post on social media that looks like it was shared by a friend, but it’s actually an ad. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes!

To avoid getting fooled by disguised ads, always be cautious when clicking on things online. Look closely at what you’re seeing and think twice before clicking on anything that seems suspicious. That way, you can stay in control and avoid falling for tricky ads!

6. Misdirection

Picture this: you’re trying to buy something online, and you’re almost done checking out. But then, out of nowhere, a pop-up appears with a big button that says “Continue.” You click on it, thinking it’ll take you to the next step, but instead, it opens a bunch of ads!

That’s what we call the misdirection dark pattern. It’s like a sneaky trick that websites use to distract you or make you do things you didn’t mean to do. They might put buttons or images in tricky places to confuse you and lead you to click on stuff that benefits them, not you.

This often happens during online shopping, especially at the checkout. You might see a button that looks like it’ll help you finish your purchase, but when you click on it, it takes you somewhere else entirely, like to more ads.

To avoid falling for this trick, always pay close attention to what you’re clicking on. Read everything carefully, and if something seems weird or unexpected, think twice before clicking on it. That way, you can stay focused and avoid getting tricked by misdirection!

7. Friend Spam

Imagine you’re using an app or website, and suddenly it asks if you want to invite all your friends to join too. You might think it’s just a friendly suggestion, but actually, it’s a sneaky trick called friend spam.

Friend spam is when a service or app tries to get you to invite your friends without you realizing it. They might use tricky language or design to make you think you’re just sharing something cool, but really, you’re inviting your friends to join without their permission.

Social media platforms have been called out for doing this in the past. For instance, LinkedIn got in trouble for sending emails to people’s contacts, asking them to join without their OK.

To avoid getting caught up in friend spam, always be careful when sharing your info online. Make sure you know what you’re agreeing to before you click OK, and don’t share stuff with your friends unless you’re sure they’d want to know about it too. That way, you can steer clear of spreading unwanted invitations!

8. Confirm Shaming

Think about when you’re on a website and you want to cancel something, like a subscription. Sometimes, the website tries to make you feel bad about it. They might say something like, “Are you sure you want to cancel? You’ll lose your discount!” This is called confirm shaming.

Confirm shaming tries to make you feel guilty or anxious about your choices. It uses words or messages to pressure you into doing something you might not want to do. For example, it might make you feel like you’re missing out on a good deal if you cancel.

To avoid falling for confirm shaming, pay attention to how the website makes you feel. If it tries to guilt-trip you or make you feel bad, take a step back and think about what you really want. Don’t let tricky language or design tricks push you into making a decision you might regret later. Trust your gut and make choices that feel right for you!

9. Privacy Zuckering

Privacy zuckering is a tricky thing some companies do to get your personal info without you realizing it. They might hide it in long, confusing terms and conditions or make it seem like you have to give them your info to use their site or app.

This kind of thing has caused big problems for social media sites like Facebook. People have accused them of not protecting users’ privacy and using their info in ways they didn’t agree to.

To avoid getting zuckered, be careful when a site or app asks for your info. Take your time to read through their privacy policy and terms of service before you decide to share anything personal. It’s important to know what you’re agreeing to before you click “OK”.

10. Price Comparison Prevention

The dark pattern known as “preventing price comparison” stops users from easily comparing prices of different products or services. This makes it hard for them to make smart choices and find the best deals.

Many online shopping websites use this trick to keep users from checking prices on other sites. They do this by hiding or making it difficult to use price comparison tools. That way, users might just buy from them without looking for better deals elsewhere.

To avoid getting tricked by this, users should take the time to compare prices from different websites. Doing some research can help them save money and make sure they’re getting the best deal possible.

11. Trick Questions/Options

Some UX designers use deceptive dark patterns to misguide users into taking actions they didn’t intend to. For instance, a sign-up form may have pre-selected options that require users to unselect them if they don’t want to share additional information or subscribe to unwanted newsletters.

This manipulative tactic relies on users’ autopilot behaviour, leading them to take action without carefully evaluating the consequences. By pre-selecting certain options or phrasing questions ambiguously, designers steer users towards choices that benefit the website or service provider.

To avoid being tricked by deceptive questions or options, users should read form fields and questions carefully, taking the time to understand the implications of their responses. They should remain attentive to any pre-selected options and deselect them if they do not align with their preferences.

12. Sneak into the Basket

Sneak into the Basket

The sneak-into-basket dark pattern is when something extra gets added to your shopping cart without you knowing. It happens during the checkout process on websites.

This trick is often used on shopping sites to make you buy more stuff without asking you first. For example, when you’re buying a new phone, they might sneak in an extra warranty service without telling you, so you end up paying more than you planned.

To avoid getting tricked by this, always check what’s in your cart before you pay. That way, you can spot any sneaky additions and avoid spending extra money.

13. Social Proof

Social proof is a fancy term that means people tend to follow what others are doing. In website design, this idea is used to make you do things based on what you think others are doing.

On shopping websites, for example, they might show a message saying, “10 people bought this item in the last hour!” This is to make you feel like you should buy it too because everyone else is.

To avoid getting tricked by this, it’s essential to think carefully. Don’t just believe everything you see. Look for real reviews from people you trust, and take your time before making a decision.

Avoiding Dark Patterns: Empowering Users

The prevalence of dark patterns in UX design necessitates users’ vigilance and critical thinking to protect their interests and privacy. Here are essential tips to avoid falling into the traps set by dark patterns:

Read Terms and Conditions: Always read the terms and conditions of any service or subscription before signing up. Be aware of potential difficulties in cancelling services or returning products.

Avoid Rushing Checkout: Take your time during the checkout process to carefully read all prompts and ensure transparency in pricing and additional charges.

Avoiding Dark Patterns: Empowering Users

Compare Prices: Compare prices from multiple providers to gain a comprehensive view of the product or service’s cost and any potential hidden fees.

Recognise Disguised Ads: Be attentive to visual cues and critically assess content to identify disguised ads and avoid unwanted interactions.

Question Misdirection: Carefully read all prompts and question any unexpected visual cues or misleading information that could lead you astray.

Verify Friend Invitations: Be cautious when sharing personal information and avoid inadvertently spreading unwanted invitations through friend spam.

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Understand Privacy Policies: Be mindful of the permissions you grant to websites and apps. Read and understand the privacy policy and terms of service before providing personal information.

Research Price Comparison: Take the time to explore different options and compare prices across various providers to make informed purchasing decisions.

Read Carefully: Please pay close attention to the form fields and questions provided. If any pre-selected options do not align with your preferences, please be sure to deselect them. fences, please be sure to deselect them.

Review Your Cart: Carefully review your cart contents before proceeding to payment to identify any unauthorised additions.

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Evaluate Social Proof: Critically evaluate the legitimacy of displayed numbers and reviews before making decisions based on social proof.

Conclusion

The realm of dark patterns in UX design is vast and ever-evolving, with deceptive tactics aimed at manipulating user behaviour for the benefit of businesses or service providers. Users must be vigilant, cautious, and mindful of the various dark patterns that may lurk within digital platforms. By understanding and recognising these dark patterns, users can protect their privacy, personal information, and financial interests. Armed with knowledge and critical thinking, users can avoid falling into the traps of dark patterns, empowering themselves to navigate the digital landscape with confidence and make informed decisions.

Ultimately, ethical design practices that prioritise user experience, transparency, and user empowerment are essential to fostering trust, loyalty, and satisfaction among users. Embracing ethical UX design is the path towards creating a digital world that truly serves and enhances the lives of its users.

FAQs

What are dark patterns in UX design?

Dark patterns are manipulative user interface design elements or techniques deliberately crafted to trick or deceive users into taking actions they may not want to. These patterns exploit psychological vulnerabilities, making it difficult for users to make informed choices.

Why should I be concerned about dark patterns in my UX design?

Incorporating dark patterns can harm your users’ trust and perception of your brand, leading to negative user experiences. It can also result in decreased user retention, increased bounce rates, and potential legal issues if deceptive practices are employed.

What are some common examples of dark patterns?

Some examples of dark patterns include deceptive wording, hidden charges, forced continuity (auto-subscribe), bait-and-switch tactics, fake urgency, and confusing unsubscribe processes.

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