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:
- Low cost airlines that put insurance in your basket without you asking.
- Social networking sites purposefully make it hard for you to shrink your social graph or move your content into private realms. I’m looking at you, facebook.
- Email sending systems that require you to log-in (using a long forgotten password) in order to unsubscribe. (This is actually forbidden by the revised CAN-SPAM 2008 rules, but it’s widely ignored)
- Systems that ask for your email / twitter credentials on the grounds of finding you friends, but then send messages as if they are directly from you, without your express consent.
- Supermarkets (in the real world) that prevent you from comparing products on price, by putting items in different sized bundles.
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.