Dark Patterns: When UX becomes manipulative

A new Princeton study shows that many online shopping sites use so-called “dark patterns”. Manipulative design techniques designed to force customers to buy something they don’t want or need. Dark patterns are nothing new, and even Facebook has been accused of using them to get people to share data.

Simply put, dark patterns are tactics used to get people to take action that they may not really want to do or notice. If the purpose is to trick users with underhand tactics, we call them “dark patterns” or “dark UX.” Just like when advertising tricks you into buying a product you’re not necessarily looking for. Advertising in the dark prevents you from keeping what the company promises you and then deceives you. These methods of manipulation are known as dark patterns. Dark Patterns are manipulative interfaces designed to entice users to take actions they may not have voluntarily done.

The study defines dark patterns as decisions about the design of user interfaces that benefit an online service by forcing or deceiving users into unintentional and potentially harmful decisions. Dark patterns are essentially misleading. UI / UX decisions by UX designers who maliciously try to get users to do things they don’t want to do indirectly.

The purpose of dark UX patterns is to work with design principles and human psychology to benefit the company at the user’s expense. Dark patterns are elements of the user interface designed to entice users to do things they might not otherwise do. These are product designs designed to enable users to do something that users may not want to do.

Deceptive to the core

Do not be fooled that dark patterns are an effective design strategy to encourage users to take the action they want on your site. Being aware of how app design exploits human biases is key to avoiding falling victim to a dark pattern. It’s also crucial to prevent you from being a victim of these strategies by being aware of how your app’s interface can be manipulative and how it plays out human bias.

As web design and development has become mass accessible, we have tried to figure out how to turn online content into cold, demanding money. Still, the concept of dark patterns is not limited to shopping. Fraudsters have exploited this to trick people into buying iPhone app subscriptions; iPhone apps use similar techniques to get users to pay for subscriptions. Even Facebook has been accused of “harnessing dark patterns” to trick users into sharing contact information with their friends and family.

To do this, one would have to understand who the manipulators are, the manipulation’s goals, and their strategies. Getting people to sign up and pay for subscription services and deliberately making it difficult for them to cancel them are apparent, actionable examples.

All that glitters is not gold.

Convincing users with free offers and free samples to do more is a great way to do it and doesn’t have to be particularly invasive or dramatic. It is easy to imagine that companies will find ways to optimize their designs and find new ways to engage users. What would be designed to give users more control over their online experience? First, it may require a distraction dashboard that provides certain user experience elements that users can control.

When researchers examined dark patterns as a deceptive practice, they found 183 websites engaged in such practices and 22 third-party providers that offered them turnkey solutions. While aggressive dark patterns provoke an intense consumer backlash, mild darkness suggests that firms that use them are making substantial profits. Stick to your ethical design values, create a simple and understandable flow, and remind your bosses that your business uses dark patterns.

Not all dark patterns are malicious, and UX designers may not be aware that they build a system that deceives users. Dark patterns are often created by a design process that focuses on the “A” and “B” tests, even if the result is not the intention. There is a twist: dark patterns are often the places where a designer tries things that lead to better engagement or nudges users in ways that benefit the company.

Distinguish manipulation

Now that website design can boost sales, we explain why information technology is so good at facilitating manipulation. It can be defined in two ways: (1) as an act of deception and (2) applying a particular technique or effect. Suppose manipulation is defined as hidden or hidden influence. In that case, it is possible to define online manipulation as influencing a person’s decision-making by deliberately exploiting and exploiting a decision – thus creating vulnerability.

Manipulation is often and aggressively used to harm the manipulator’s target in any way, or at least to profit at the target’s expense. To distinguish between manipulations, we must first define them by their impact on the user experience. We must have the ability to use specific techniques and effects to achieve this goal.

Dark Patterns. UX Knowledge Base Sketch #29 | by Krisztina Szerovay | UX  Knowledge Base Sketch

We have set a very high bar for manipulation when we define manipulation as circumventing rational considerations, then using exaggerated representations of hypnosis and subliminal advertising to illustrate its meaning. Suppose one defines manipulation as a form of influence, rational conviction, or coercion. In that case, one might call it morally legitimate. You will have to conclude that manipulation is absolutely wrong.

Tactics far more clever

The tactic of emotional blackmail or peer pressure is a manipulation model that imposes costs on those who do not do what the manipulator wants. If manipulation is defined as forms of “rational conviction” or “coercion,” then there is no reason to treat it as any form of “pressure”. No record of influence or rational conviction is ever morally “legitimate.”

Any representation of what manipulation is is presupposed by explaining when it is immoral and why it was (or is) immoral.

Websites refine their methods by feedback from their visitors and optimizing their manipulations to the degree that our wildest dreams in the physical world could never be achieved. Brands constantly design their user interfaces and create what they want at all times. Advertising services use comprehensive tracking and monitoring to make personalization as accurate as possible. They often track their users as they move from site to site, creating an accurate representation of what the user is viewing.

Studies have shown several ways shopping websites manipulate customers. Making it harder to cancel purchases, shaming customers when they try to leave, and producing fake testimonials.

An even more severe danger

The idea that manipulation consists of some form of pressure can be considered a fully-fledged theory of manipulation. Still, most authors simply cite it just as: “This dynamic is even more evident in manipulative relationships where manipulation can lead to subordination and even abuse”. It is not uncommon to give in to coercion. There is a risk that manipulation or pressure for physical aggression or violence will escalate. There is no doubt that manipulation is wrong because it undermines autonomous decision-making.

Fraud, threats, and deception can be used to gain control of traffickers who obtain compromised information. You may also be subject to coercion and fear-mongering, which in some cases may be used to induce you to make a statement or to perform harmful acts.

Some websites use misleading language and claim to offer users the opportunity to stop the manipulation, but this will make it particularly difficult to actually do so.