"Dark Patterns are tricks used in websites and apps that make you do things that you didn't mean to, like buying or signing up for something." as defined by Harry Brignull who coined the term in 2010. Deceptive Design, basically.
Dark patterns essentially is based on cognitive biases we possess and are twisted to benefit the business while deceiving the user.
There are many different types of dark patterns like asking tricky questions while filling out forms, sneaking stuff into your basket without consent, making the exit so much more difficult than onboarding, making product comparison hard, shaming you for opting out of services, etc. among other things.
To illustrate some of the types of dark patterns, here are some examples:
- This video by nerdwriter explains what a task it is to delete your amazon account.
- Confirmshaming is another dark pattern used by companies to make you feel guilty of opting out of certain services. An entire Tumblr community is dedicated to it.
- Dark patterns although defined in digital sense is quite prominent in the physical spaces too. Specially in packaging design where everyone competes to stand out while also trying to be profitable. Some examples below. And the deception does not end here, it lurks into every other space too like toilets, parks, bus stops etc.
- Planned Obsolescence is the idea of deceptively designing products to fail after a period of time, in order to engage people in continuous consumption. It also often gets combined with anti-repair design where the user has to either go to the 'authorised service centres' or get a new product.
Now that we discussed some of the dark patterns in the digital and physical spaces, we will wrap this up with one nuanced examples of what is called "benevolent deception" which is essentially a centrist approach use deception to help the users.
TurboTax uses a fake progress bar that runs longer than it actually works while going through users tax filing to make it appear more legit. Although it may sound benevolent on the face of it, TurboTax is accused of lobbying for not making the tax filing process simpler, which would make them go out of business. Read more here.
If you reached this far. Here's some bonus stuff:
- user inyerface (check it out, its super fun!)
- ethical.net has resources for ethical digital alternatives