Dark Patterns: dirty tricks designers use to make people do stuff

Note: This post is over 4 years old. It was first published in July 2010


Image credit: Paul McDonald

Normally we think of bad design as consisting of laziness, mistakes, or school-boy errors. We refer to these sorts of design patterns as Antipatterns. However, there’s another kind of bad design pattern, one that’s been crafted with great attention to detail, and a solid understanding of human psychology, to trick users into do things they wouldn’t otherwise have done. This is the dark side of design, and since these kind of design patterns don’t have a name, I’m proposing we start calling them Dark Patterns.

I’m preparing a short talk on this for the UX Brighton Conference in September, and I need a bit of help coming up with some examples. Here’s a taste of what I’m talking about:

Can you think of any good, contemporary examples to go with this list? Add your suggestions in the comments below. I will, of course, credit you in my slides.

To be clear, I’m not looking for outright scams (which are clumsy and easy to identify), I’m looking for techniques used by above-board products and services that trick users into doing things.