Have you ever tried to unsubscribe from an email list, but found the process confusing and difficult? Or felt tricked into signing up for a paid subscription without meaning to? These are examples of “dark patterns” – deceptive techniques used in web design and marketing, which are designed to manipulate users into doing things they didn’t intend. Though seemingly harmless on the surface, dark patterns can have serious consequences.
As part of FireOak’s ongoing exploration of issues related to ethics in information technology, Kelly LeBlanc explores various types of dark patterns – deceptive interfaces and techniques that manipulate users. Spread across several articles published by Information Today, Kelly dives into practices that exploit people through intentionally confusing designs that undermine autonomy and choice. Ranging from convoluted cancellation processes to sneaky subscriptions that shame users into signing up, these articles unveil the questionable practices that companies utilize to nudge people into unintended decisions.
In “The Magic of Dark Patterns: Can We Evade Their Trickery?,” written for Information Today’s Newsbreaks, Kelly introduced several common types techniques:
- Bait and Switch
- Friend Spam
- The Roach Motel
- “Free Trials” with headaches
All of these and more are covered in more detail in the follow-up piece, “Dark Patterns Deep Dive.”