Darkpatterns.org: naming and shaming sites that use black hat, anti-usability design patterns.

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

Have you ever wondered why there are many clearly defined Design Patterns for good design, and Anti-Patterns for mistakes, but in the field of UX we have no recognised terminology for evil design? And why has the SEO industry always recognised the difference between black-hat and white-hat practices?

The answer is simple really. Google has a clearly defined set of guidelines, they do a great job of monitoring for black-hat SEO practices and they heavily penalise offenders. Black-hat SEO is kept in check because it’s highly risky.

Black-hat UX is different: it’s subtle, it’s not easily monitored by software algorithms, but worst of all, as a community we’ve never tried to tackle it head on. This needs to change.

About a month ago I wrote a short post on Dark Patterns (“Dirty tricks designers use to make you do stuff”), asking for input on a talk I’m preparing for the UX Brighton conference in September. The response was pretty impressive, with almost 100 comments and loads of conversation over on Hacker News.

So, I’ve taken everyone’s suggestions and put together darkpatterns.org: a black-hat design pattern library. It’s currently in beta (i.e. unfinished), and I’d love further input. I really want this to be a community project – please free to email in suggestions, add comments, or get in touch if you want to co-curate the site with me.

Let’s stop turning a blind eye to black-hat UX. Let’s name the offenders and shame them into giving it up. As a community, it’s well within our power to do this.

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