A Brief Insight about Dark Patterns Used In Modern Web Designing

Whenever you log into a web page or an app you will find everywhere there are a few little tricks with popups and different other forms that will “trick” you into completing an online action. These are the so-called ‘dark patterns’ as these are supposed to create a negative impact on the user experience.

However, few people do click on these but actually, the little “benefit” that you derive from it especially when someone clicks at the wrong thing will do no good for you either. Therefore, you should keep off these web design issues from your websites. For this, you will first have to know what these dark patterns are and the types of it.

The meaning and concept

Dark patterns appear in web designs all throughout and you will find there is not much information about this on the web. However, if you visit darkpatterns.org you will find that it is explained something like this: When you use the internet and visit a web page you usually do not read each and every word mentioned on the page. You make assumptions and skim read avoiding a major part of the text. By using the dark patterns the companies want to trick you to do something. They take the advantage of making the page look like something else while in fact, it says an entirely different thing. Dark patterns are a real ethical issue that is used in the web designing technique which intentionally tricks the users to do something that they do not want to.

Technically speaking, dark patterns will also pad your analytics artificially with clicks or hits that the users did not intend to make voluntarily. As a result, your reporting becomes very much skewed. In short, it means that dark patterns may provide you with short-term gains but it is usually lost in the long term.

Types of dark patterns

There are different types of dark patterns but generally, these deceptive web design tactics can be grouped into five specific categories such as:

  • Intentional misdirection: Making the users do something that they do not want to do these patterns purposefully misdirects their focus on a specific thing as a distraction from some other thing. Usually, this is achieved by the company by giving up inadvertent information to a website. The most common form of misdirection is the tricky design which is a very common “no” button switches. These are there to confirm or these makes the design look like there is only one “right” answer. You will find these common techniques used extensively in apps and games. You will see that there is a big button that shows the “buy more” credits option and at the same time there is a small and difficult to tap “no thanks” option button. You will also find that there is a more engaging first option visual button for payment that usually pops up after you click the “free download” button and this is a definite dark pattern trick.
  • Hidden ads: These are the ads that usually appear as a part of the content itself or just as a navigation tool with a button enticing enough for the user to click it.
  • Forced continuity: These are usually associated with the free trials which users opt for without considering much about reading the fine print. However, in this print most of the free trails including forced continuity charges when the free trials come to an end. If you want to avoid this dark pattern in web design make sure that you do not require any payment for anything that you offer for free.
  • Growth through spam: This is done by connecting a social media account or an email address to the website. This is done so that the user finds a friend to team up with and then all of them are spammed with information. This definite dark pattern deployed can provide a lot of immediate growth for the website as it looks like you are actually sending spam message and emails to contacts.
  • Hidden costs: There are a few extra items included in a cart or hidden charges included when users reach the end of a checkout funnel. These dark patterns are especially used by the websites to prevent the users from redeeming promo codes and coupons that they apply. At the checkout, they are compelled to look at other items resulting in them dropping off these coupons at checkout when privacy protection is automatically added unless the user opts out.

These types of dark patterns often come with catchier names and interesting features just to distract the users and make them do what the company wants them to do.

Few ethical considerations

Since by name it is dark, there are a few ethical questions that may come when you want to determine whether or not you should deploy these design tactics in your website. or not, comes with plenty of ethical questions. These are:

  • Do you find something is tricky? Then it probably is.
  • Do you want your website to be known for this reason?
  • Would you rather be upfront and create a trustworthy design for user loyalty and liking?

To know the answers you will need to think about a few specific things such as:

  • The websites you often visit and find that it is very hard to find the buttons you wantto click
  • The email newsletters wherein you have to hunt for the unsubscribe button and when you manage to find and click on it you are tricked and offered with different subscription options
  • About the “x” buttons to close an ad or get out from a pop up that are tiny or incredibly hard to click or tap and the number of times you have clicked on it by mistake.

Also think before deploying whether the technique is necessary, do you want to trickusers, will the design frustrate or anger the users, and do you want people to know what is behind your analytics or reporting. If not, use user-friendly alternatives.

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