A dark pattern is a misleading action created by the UI/UX designer that leads the user down a certain path, or towards a certain action that may benefit the website more than the user. A designer’s job is to create delightful simple designs for the user to interact with. However, this also gives them a lot of power as in the process of simplifying the number of steps the user needs to take, they can lead them to do something the user didn’t want to do in the first place.
The term ‘Dark Pattern’ was first introduced by the London-based designer Harry Brignull in 2010 and ever since, it has been used as a guide of what to look out for (as a user) and what to avoid doing as a designer in order to ensure happy and returning customers.
Although in the short-run, dark patterns have lead websites to benefit from these misguided actions, in the long run, they might be risking losing the chance to get loyal, returning customers all together.
Here are common dark patterns that are found in E-Commerce websites and how to spot them!
“Wait I didn’t want to do that”
This is commonly seen when the main option or call to action is one that the user will NOT pick most of the time. This is often used by websites when they want you to pay for something else, add something new to the cart, or any other actions the user will probably not be inclined to initially, but would benefit the website.
This sneaky tactic is seen more often than not
So, remember: always read what you’re selecting before selecting it!
“I thought that was free?”
Have you ever been on an ongoing online shopping spree where you already have 15 items in your cart but you keep going cause ‘there’s a sale’?
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
Something you might have not noticed, or overlooked easily, is that cheeky pop up that appears at the end of your shopping spree, or just as you’re about to add something else to your cart.
It might state that you’re getting something for free, when in reality it’s adding the price of it later in your cart.
Websites often use this tactic to lead you to add more to your cart without noticing it
“Can I really NOT unsubscribe from this at all?”
Part of users subscribing to something on a website is the flexibility and option to unsubscribe if the user wants to.
However, a common dark pattern around this feature is hiding the unsubscribe button or making it illegible making it harder or impossible for the user to unsubscribe.
And yes, that unsubscribe button might be white text on a white background…
Although un-subscribing is a sign that something you’re doing is driving a user away — hiding the option to unsubscribe or making it impossible to find may cause this user to never return at all.
“Will choosing this actually make me a terrible person?”
This last most common type of dark pattern is extremely common when trying to sell you something or when the user is about to checkout and an offer is given. Confirm-shaming often comes with a sarcastic tone that ‘shames’ the user into thinking that any other action besides the one the website is trying to push you to is the incorrect one.
In a nutshell:
Dark Patterns are everywhere and unfortunately are used very often. Make sure you’re thinking about the reason you are even considering including that dark pattern (if you’re a designer) and whether losing users all together is really worth a small portion of them falling into your ‘trap’. As a user, keep an eye out for these sneaky recurring patterns that seem to pop up in most websites!