Dark patterns in UX
April 20, 2023 | Readtime - approx 5min
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When you're browsing a website or using an app, have you ever felt like you were being tricked or manipulated into doing something you didn't want to do? If so, you may have encountered a dark design pattern.

Dark design patterns are user interface designs that manipulate users into taking certain actions or making certain choices. These patterns are often deceptive, unethical, or even illegal, and can range from subtle nudges to outright coercion.

Example of a dark pattern used by the company JD
Highlighted dark pattern component | Screenshot from www.jdsports.co.uk
Examples of dark design patterns include:

1. Forced action:
This is when a user is forced to take a certain action in order to complete a task, such as signing up for a newsletter in order to access content.

2. Misdirection:
This is when a user is intentionally directed away from a certain action, such as a hidden "unsubscribe" button on a subscription service.

3. Social proof:
This is when a website or app uses social proof, such as fake reviews or user counts, to persuade users to take a certain action.

4. Default opt-ins:
This is when a user is automatically opted into a service or feature, such as automatically subscribing to a newsletter during a checkout process.

5. Scarcity:
This is when a website or app uses language such as "limited time only" or "only a few left" to create a sense of urgency and persuade users to take a certain action.

While some dark design patterns may seem harmless, they can have serious consequences. For example, forced actions can lead to unwanted charges or subscriptions, while default opt-ins can lead to privacy violations.

So why do companies use dark design patterns? The answer is simple: to increase profits. By manipulating users into taking certain actions, companies can increase their conversion rates and revenue.

However, the use of dark design patterns is unethical and can damage a company's reputation. Not only can it lead to legal consequences, but it can also result in a loss of trust from customers.

As a user, it's important to be aware of dark design patterns and to avoid websites and apps that use them. Look for transparency in the user experience and avoid any site or service that feels manipulative or coercive. As a designer or developer, it's important to prioritize user experience and avoid using dark design patterns. Instead, focus on creating a transparent and ethical user experience that builds trust with users.
In conclusion, dark design patterns are manipulative and unethical user interface designs that can harm both users and companies. By being aware of these patterns and avoiding their use, we can create a more transparent and ethical online experience for everyone.

The below link is a pretty impressive list of companies that use this methodology: https://www.deceptive.design/hall-of-shame/all
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