What is a dark pattern?
A dark pattern is a term for any design that tricks or shames the user into doing a company’s desired action while navigating the web. This tactic is considered unethical and can cause huge problems with user experience. Companies that use dark patterns may get superficial boosts in traffic or sales for a short period of time, but a positive result never comes in the long run. This is mostly because traffic levels rarely, if ever, sustain and you end up handling more refunds than sales. In the end, dark patterns are overall, bad ideas and should be avoided. So, today I will be showing you 5 of some of the most common dark patterns and how designers put them into websites to trick users.
5 Dark Patterns You Need To Avoid
1. Bait and Switch
The bait and switch technique refers to when a user expects a certain result from taking action on a website, but instead receives an undesired result. An example of this is when Microsoft used bait and switch for their windows 10 operating system. When users tried to ‘x’ out of the pop-up recommending an update, the system would close and update anyways, even though the ‘x’ indicated that the user did not want to proceed with the update. This resulted in many unhappy users; and, ultimately, Microsoft had to pay one woman $10,000 in order to reimburse her for the damage caused to her computer. Bait and switch is not always harmful, but can just be annoying and confusing, causing the user to grow irritated and leave your website.
Confirmshaming is simply the act of shaming the user into performing the action that the company encourages by using language that makes the user feel bad. This can be when messages state things like “I don’t want the latest deals” in order to discourage the user of their decision, and even big companies like Google use these tactics. They use the fears of the consumer to their own benefit.
3. Disguised Ads
Normally, it’s obvious when an ad has been placed in an article, but the problem arises when it is difficult to differentiate between an ad and useful information. In the world of social media and influencers, it is prevalent, especially on platforms like Instagram. The problem primarily occurs because a user might not recognize a part of an article as an ad and takes the post or article as a valid recommendation. The biggest problem with disguised ads is that it leads the user to question if they can even trust you overall as a brand and can have negative impacts on a company’s success moving forward.
4. Forced Continuity
Forced continuity is the act of giving somebody a free trial for your website or service, taking down their credit card information, and then billing them once their free trial has expired. This is can be seen by the user as being taken advantage of, and could have disastrous effects on your business that could also result in you being penalized by credit card companies and local business bureaus.
5. Price Comparison Prevention
Price comparison prevention is when a website owner makes it hard for the user to compare the price of two separate items which makes it hard to make an informed decision. On Southwest Airlines mobile site, when trying to book a multiple leg trip, the site made it impossible to see how much each leg cost, leaving the user unable to figure out if booking the packaged trips was more cost effective than booking the trips individually.