Dark Patterns of Manipulation

Dark patterns are UX (user experience) interactions designed to trick or mislead users.

Ever seen the ‘Temporary offer, only 1 left’ claim? This is a very typical example of this type of manipulation – trying to make you think you’re going to miss out on a great deal if you don’t jump on it immediately.

Also, they make it look like the products are on sale, but these prices have always been the same…

Dark Patterns in the Wild

These practices are deceptive and unethical, and there are a lot of them out there. 11 types have been classified by darkpatterns.org:

  1. Bait and Switch – you want to do one thing but another thing happens instead.
  2. Confirmshaming – guilting you into opting into something by using shaming language.
  3. Disguised Ads – ads that look like navigation elements or content.
  4. Forced Continuity – charging your card without notifying you when you finish a ‘free’ trial. And often making it very hard to cancel.
  5. Friend Spam – asks for your social contacts and then spams them.
  6. Hidden Costs – the last step of the checkout process has unexpected fees.
  7. Misdirection – focuses you on one thing to prevent you from seeing another.
  8. Price Comparison Prevention – seller makes it hard to compare prices of their products.
  9. Privacy Zuckering – you get tricked into sharing more information publicly than you intended.
  10. Roach Motel – easy to get into, impossible to leave.
  11. Sneak into Basket – during the purchasing process extra items are added to your cart.
  12. Trick Questions – a question appears to ask one thing but is actually asking another.

Learn more about dark patterns and how to protect yourself from these subtle (and not-so-subtle) manipulation tactics.