Dark Patterns – Deceiving Your Users

I remember when I was first getting into making websites in 1999, there was a website that I loved: Web Pages That Suck. It was a website dedicated to showing bad examples of web design. It was kind of funny, and I remember learning a few things not to do. Though it isn’t as relevant today, it amazes me they still find websites that are doing the same terrible things that they were doing back in the 90’s.

Today, after seeing a tweet by Jeffery Zeldman that was retweeted by Andy Budd, I came across a new favorite website: Dark Patterns.

These patterns are not to be confused with Anti-Patterns. Anti-Patterns are commonly used techniques that are in-effective or counter-productive. They are consideres mistakes with unintentional consequences or pitfalls. Dark Patterns, however, are things web designers & developers do on purpose. From the home page of Dark Patterns website:

Normally when you think of “bad design”, you think of laziness or mistakes. These are known as design anti-patterns. Dark Patterns are different – they are not mistakes, they are carefully crafted with a solid understanding of human psychology, and they do not have the user’s interests in mind.

The website then names several of these “Dark Patterns”: Friend Spam, Privacy Zuckering, Misdirection, Bait and Switch, and many others.

I recommend checking out their website, and then self evaluating your own projects asking these questions:

  • Do I use these Dark Patterns?
  • Do any projects I work on use these Dark Patterns?
  • If so, how can I fix them?

The Dark Patterns website has a 20 minute video which is a recorded presentation an event. What I best like about it is it shows a few examples of Dark Patterns, and then walks through the logic of avoiding them. I recommend giving it a view:

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