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Dark Patterns in UX: Do We Use It or Not

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Published by jetbi
17 February 2023

Dark patterns still cause a lot of questions and discussions. Some believe that it should not be used because this is practically user manipulation, while others, on the contrary, believe that all means are good in battle.


What are Dark Patterns?

The term was first introduced in 2010 by a London-based UX designer Harry Brynnull. He described "dark patterns" as a carefully designed user interface that pushes the user to move along a beneficial path for the company.

When creating this technique, designers rely on a detailed knowledge of the work of human psychology, and it is on this that the whole scheme of dark patterns is built. In this case, the interests of the user going by the wayside. As a result, the user begins to acquire things that he does not need at all, without realizing it.


How do Dark Patterns work?

Chances are you've come across situations where you're asked to agree to certain terms that you don't like, but there aren't any better options. This is how dark patterns work. Roughly speaking, these are interface interaction scenarios in which the user is forced to act in a way that is beneficial for the company. But along the way, these basic tricks are built on human inattention and psychology.

Most often, dark patterns are led by people who are trying to find a solution to their problems as quickly as possible. After all, they do not read the text and conditions on the page but skim through the text, clinging to carefully chosen words. As a result, the trap of dark patterns closes, and in pursuit of speed, such users do not even notice that they are starting to use it. The funny fact is that this scheme is based on the same rules created to improve interface usability. We can say that dark patterns are a perverse version of Nielsen's 10 heuristics, which are a guide to creating ideal UX interfaces.

If we talk about the types of dark patterns, there are quite a lot. The most common option is to impose a subscription almost by force and this is used by most modern services. By installing the application or registering on the website, the user is offered to get acquainted with the trial version of the subscription, and it is entirely free. At the same time, upon activation, you must enter your credit card details, and if the user forgets to unsubscribe, then when the trial period ends, money for the subscription will start debiting money for a subscription from his account. But that's not all. Quite a few companies do not add notifications about future debiting of funds on the subscription activation window and in some cases, to cancel the subscription, you generally need to call the office or make a request via e-mail.

Also, dark patterns include moments when a user can easily and quickly create an account, but if the user wants to delete it later -  that's become a real challenge and sometimes it is unlikely that it couldn't be passed without a support service. In addition, there is a “bait and replace” approach, when the user is offered two options for solving the problem, but both possibilities lead in the same direction. Remember the famous "update" and "update tonight" from Windows. Because of this wording, many users installed updates they did not need.

And this is not all possible methods. Collection of personal data, tracking of viewed products, requesting answers to questions, deception, spam, hidden advertising, and spending are all elements of dark patterns that work against the user.



And if we sum up all of the above, we can responsibly state that dark patterns are a deception that is better not to use. Building relationships with your users using such methods will only lead to a loss of trust and loyalty to the company and, therefore, a loss of income in the long run.

Of course, it can be said that the use of such patterns does not hurt within reasonable limits. But another question is whether the short-term benefit of such reputational sacrifices is worth it.

Kirill Sedelnik
UI/UX Designer
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