I ran across another great post on dark patterns by Harry Brignull on A List Apart a few days ago. I first learned about dark patterns back in December 2010, and I was immediately intrigued by the concept of consciously using psychology & UX methodology to mislead the user.
Mr. Brignull not only provides clear illustrations and real-world examples of how dark-patterns like hidden costs, trick questions, and forced continuity are utilized but, more compellingly I think, he explains that despite whether dark patterns are implemented intentionally or via misadventure they are often hard to eliminate. Dark patterns often perform well in A/B and multivariate test because their subterfuge frequently results in more conversions; eliminating the dark patterns usually means at least a temporary decrease in conversions and/or revenue.
It’s a great read, and don’t just take my word for it, head over to A List Apart so you learn more about dark patterns, and possibly find out where you and/or your organization falls on the “honest interface to dark patterns continuum” scale!
Jared Spool explains how to build a crappy survey that will produce suspect, if not misleading, results. And that’s in addition to frustrating/alienating your users/customers, which is never a good idea.
While a lot of bad interface design can be blamed on ‘not knowing any better’, there is also a more sinister form of bad design called “dark patterns” in which case bad design can be blamed on malfeasance; the interface is explicitly designed to confuse and/or trick the user.
These “dark patterns” were new to me (I first saw mention of them a few weeks ago via a tweet from @willsansbury that linked to a summary of Aaron Walters’ Interface Design Bootcamp, and Mr. Walter’s post included a link to the Dark Patterns Wiki) but the concept of consciously using psychology & UX methodology to mislead the user was unexpected and quite intriguing.
Then the next day my friend and awesome-UX guru Tyesha Snow posted Dark Pattern: Now You See it Now You Don’t on her blog. Two days two mentions of dark patterns; suddenly it was all up in my face and I wanted to know more.
There are, of course, several ways to define exactly what dark patterns are but Tyesha did a great job of boiling exactly what a dark pattern is so I’ll share hers here:
Site designers place the functionality or information they want you to find front and center, then move it once you have completed the desirable behavior so you are less likely to undo said desirable behavior or re-find information that does not support the business’s plans for you.
and then she uses an example of trying to “Unlike” a business that you’ve previously “Liked” on Facebook, and how incredibly tedious and convoluted that process is. Sensitive to how ugly a big UNLIKE button would be she provides