Better Engagement

BEN #2: The Dark Side of Design: How Dark Patterns Manipulate User Choices

Rohan Rajpal
October 25, 2023
4
-min read
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Welcome to the second edition of Better Engagement aka BEN! After exploring how your WhatsApp Broadcasting could be impacted in the upcoming season, today we're going to delve into Dark Patterns. We'll discuss why it's important to identify them as a user and how to minimize their usage as a marketer.

In the age of digital transformation, user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) have become buzzwords that every tech-savvy individual is familiar with. But there's a darker side to this: Dark Patterns. These are design elements that manipulate users into making decisions they didn't intend to make.

What Are Dark Patterns?


Definition of dark patterns: Source

Dark patterns are manipulative design tactics used in websites and apps. They exploit human psychology to compel users to take actions that may not be in their best interest. For example, a website might use a large, colorful button for an option they want you to choose, and a small, greyed-out button for the option they'd rather you not choose.

The Psychology Behind Dark Patterns

The effectiveness of dark patterns lies in their ability to tap into human psychology. They exploit behavioral biases and cognitive limitations, often making users take actions subconsciously. This is a significant ethical concern, as it questions the very integrity of user-centered design.

Regulatory Measures

The increasing prevalence of dark patterns has caught the attention of regulatory bodies. For instance, the government of India has recently released draft guidelines aimed at regulating these manipulative design elements. This is a step in the right direction, as it emphasizes the need for ethical design practices.

Key Dark Patterns to Watch Out For

Some more examples: Source

Push Notifications of Heart Rate Drops

  • Push Notification: "URGENT: Your heart rate has dropped! Open the app now."
  • Email: "Immediate Action Required: Unusual Heart Rate Detected!"
  • SMS: "Alert: Heart rate drop detected. Check the app for more details."

Fake Order Updates

  • Push Notification: "Your order is on the way!"
  • Email: "Shipping Update for Your Recent Order."
  • SMS: "Your package is out for delivery. Track now!"

Misleading Countdown Timers

  • Push Notification: "Hurry! Only 10 minutes left to grab the deal."
  • Email: "Final Countdown: Your cart will expire in 15 minutes."
  • SMS: "Last chance! Your exclusive offer ends in 5 minutes."

Confirmshaming

  • Push Notification: "Don't you want to be healthy? Turn on notifications now."
  • Email: "Sure, miss out on all the fun. Last chance to subscribe!"
  • SMS: "Click YES to save money, or NO if you enjoy wasting money."

The Ethical Dilemma

The use of dark patterns presents an ethical dilemma for designers and developers. While these tactics can be effective in driving user engagement or sales, they compromise the user's ability to make informed decisions.

Tips for Ethical Design

For those entering the tech industry, it's crucial to be aware of the ethical implications of your design choices. Focus on creating user experiences that are transparent, intuitive, and respectful of user autonomy.

Sometimes while focussing on conversions, one might unintentionally implement dark patterns. In that case a simple trick is to give that to Chatgpt and ask its review on whether its a dark pattern or not.

Conclusion

Dark patterns are a growing concern in the digital design landscape. As users, it's essential to be aware of these tactics and navigate digital spaces cautiously. As designers, the responsibility lies in creating ethical and transparent user experiences that empower rather than exploit.

This Week's Watch

Want to dive more into dark patterns and how various countries are planning to regulate it. This video by Zerodha covers it exhaustively!

If you're more of a reader, Kailash Nadh has also covered it in his blog.

References


Rohan Rajpal
October 25, 2023
4
-min read

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