Typically Product Designers should always work with the user in mind. Making every task of their app as easy and straightforward as possible, optimized even for the less tech-savvy person out there. But as we know, if companies prefer one thing over happy customers, then it is mon…paying customers. So, there has been an unethical trend among especially e-commerce platforms to produce so-called “dark patterns.”
These are design patterns made extra confusing and misleading, funnelling users, for example, into not canceling their account or adding unwanted (costly) options to their orders.In this post, we will highlight 3 common dark patterns.
If you are in Europe, you know these banners: “hey, our website is using cookies. Do you like to ACCEPT ALL”? The problem is that these tracking cookies are unnecessary for you, but the “ALL” option is almost always the easiest, most prominent option. Google, for example, lets you accept all cookies with one click, but rejecting them is 5 separate clicks.
This one is super common, almost the most common dark pattern to think of. How often have you downloaded an App just to try it out and then, after account creation, you get the “Free Trial Mode,” but it is requesting you enter your credit card details? From a pure UI/UX perspective, there is nothing to be gained here for the user. Why give your credit card number if you just want to look around? But from a company standpoint, you can be sure that they LOVE how forgetful most of us are …
Most notably, here is Facebook (eh Meta) with their super hidden, super complicated, and even making you wait a long time process to cancel your account. But as Facebook = Data Thieves with no morale is already known among most people, let me give you another example. Audible, ok, while it is nice that audible gives you a free audiobook super quickly, you start an extraordinary process once you try to cancel. You will need to confirm your will to cancel multiple times, and with each step, they throw a new offer on you to keep you subscribed. Here they are heavily playing on your will to save money and your fear of missing out.
Of course, a good agency or a designer (good as in ethical) should turn down any of these ideas. Because companies often do not consider how much this hurts their customer base. Once users encounter Dark Patterns, they will ask themselves, “Why should I trust a company that wants to trick me? Why should I stay subscribed if they need to resort to these tactics?” So your brand suffers. If you like an example, think of Ryan Air. What is your brand image of them? Cheap and Sketchy? And Norwegian Air? Somewhat premium even if they are also a “budget airline”.
If you like a fun way to demo the dark pattern hell some companies created, try out this game called Terms and Conditions apply! Let’s see how far you get without wanting to throw your laptop out of the window “https://termsandconditions.game”
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