Dark Patterns for Mobile UI/UX Design
A dark patterns are deceptive UI/UX interactions that take advantage of user behavior and patterns in order to get users to do something that they did not intend to.
Coined in 2010 by Harry Brignull, who is a user experience specialist, dark patterns are used by organizations to trick users into doing things that a user may not want to do. This happens because most users don’t read every word on the page — they skim read and make assumptions.
Let’s understand some of the different dark patterns that exist and how UX designers can be mindful of them.
But first why do companies use dark patterns?
Dark patterns are not anti-patterns, they work as intended. However most times their intent to counter user needs. Since most UX designers work for managers who are focused on business goals, such as growth and numbers — they might demand that designers implement dark patterns. When managers are tasked with meeting specific metrics, such as doubling the number of user accounts or subscriptions, dark patterns enable them to meet that goal quickly without having to spend too much time thinking about solutions that will benefit the user as well.
Kinds of Dark Patterns
- Friend Spam:
This kind of dark pattern is used by a social media platform or other pattern when they ask for your email address or permission to access your social media account in exchange for a desired outcome like finding your friends or letting you access a service. However this kind of dark pattern spams all the contacts it’s been given access to with messages that look like they come from the user.
2. Forced Continuity:
Most streaming services use this kind of dark pattern where a user’s credit card is automatically charged at the end of a free trial. Since users receive no warning that their card is about to be charged, they are often billed unexpectedly.
3. Disguised Ads
Disguised ads look like any other content on the site and users are more likely to click on them inadvertently. This is another kind of dark UX example that is commonly used by organizations.
The goal of this dark pattern is to get the user to opt into doing something, like sharing their email or signing up for a newsletter by making the alternative sound undesirable. For example, an e-commerce site might offer a discount on a users’ first order in exchange for their email address. If the user doesn’t want to share their email address, they have to click on an option that says something like, “No thank you, I don’t like saving money.”
Some other dark patterns examples are;
Bait and switch — when a user takes an action expecting one outcome, but something else happens
Hidden costs — In this dark pattern, additional fees and costs are added during the last step of the checkout process
Roach motel — a roach motel dark pattern lets users do something easily, like sign up for an account, but makes it extremely difficult to get out of the situation.
Dark patterns are still widely in use by organizations, and they can have a disastrous impact on user experiences, destroying user loyalty, creating ill will and causing brands to lose customers. Rather than using dark patterns, UX designers should strive to be more conscious and treat customers with respect by giving them choices that are transparent and clear. In the long term, this will also help organizations retain customers. If you are a UX design studio in India, spend some time understanding dark patterns and how to avoid them.