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Ethical Design – Unmasking the world of dark patterns

As with all digital technologies, a darker side always exists. In the world of interface design, “dark patterns” are used to deceive and manipulate users. In this blog post, we will define what dark patterns are, explore common examples, and discuss why it is important to be aware of them.


What are Dark Patterns?

In interface design, dark patterns are design choices that intentionally lead or trick users into making decisions that they didn’t mean to make. For example, buying overpriced products or unintentionally signing up for recurring bills. These deceptive design tactics can manifest in various forms, including misleading information, hidden costs, or persuasive language nudging users towards unintended actions. These patterns exploit psychological vulnerabilities, aiming to influence user behaviour in ways that will benefit the designer or the brand.



Examples of Dark Patterns

Roach Motel

Where users easily enter a process or subscription, but find it incredibly difficult to leave or cancel it.


Sneak Into Basket

Additional items are added to a user's shopping cart without their clear consent, leading to unintended purchases.


Misdirection

Redirecting users to unintended pages or actions through cleverly placed design elements or confusing language.


Confirmshaming

Guilt-tripping users to take a certain action.


Privacy Zuckering

Named after Facebook co-founder and Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, this dark pattern aims to trick the user into sharing more information than they intended to.


Hidden Costs

Concealing additional fees or charges until the user is deep into the checkout process.



Why Are Dark Patterns Concerning?

Dark patterns decrease users’ trust in digital interfaces. When users feel deceived or manipulated, it decreases their satisfaction with the user experience and affects the brand’s reputation. Designers should prioritise transparency and honesty to foster long-term relationships with their users.


Designers also play a crucial role in shaping the ethics of the digital world. They should embrace ethical design principles by putting the user's interests first, providing clear and honest information, and avoiding manipulative practices. By following an ethical design approach, designers can improve trust and create a more positive user experience.


In conclusion, it is important for anyone who uses the web to be aware of these deceptive practices, in order to recognise and resist manipulation. It is also important that designers follow an ethical design approach that values trust, transparency, and user-centric experiences.

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