5 popular dark patterns in UX design

As designers, we make difficult decisions every day. One of the hardest decisions to make is balancing marketing goals with user needs. Increasing a company s reach and profits is a common reason brands use dark design patterns. What is behind this mysterious term?

Dark patterns Are interfaces carefully designed to deliberately mislead users into choosing a path they don t want to take. They are specifically designed to achieve the goals of the company without concern for ethics or the needs of the user.

In 2010, London-based UX designer Harry Brignall created the website darkpatterns.org, which showcases a variety of interfaces that deliberately mislead users. These tricks force users to take unexpected actions, such as clicking on fake buttons or unintentionally renewing a paid subscription.

I can give many theoretical definitions, but the truth is that each of us at least once faced the issue of canceling the newsletter subscription or closing the pop-up window.

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Oftentimes, dark patterns can have a negative impact on a business. Let s take a look at a Linkedin example. Companies sued for using misleading design in teaching new users. They tricked users into importing their address books and sending spam emails to their friends. After that, the court ordered LinkedIn to pay users $ 13 million in compensation.


So let s take a look at 5 dastardly tactics that mislead users.

Want to say no? Shame on you!

This pattern tries to make the user feel guilty about doing something. It is regularly used to convince a user to sign up for a newsletter. Sometimes they try to emotionally hurt the user with the following formulations: “I’m not interested in getting more knowledge”, “I don’t care about the health of children”, “I don’t want to keep up with the times” etc.

More interesting and fun examples can be found here: http://confirmshaming.tumblr.com/

Below are some of my favorites:


Disguised advertising

Disguised ads are a tactic where banner ads are displayed like the rest of the content or navigation elements: buttons, sliders, etc. Their main task is to confuse users and make them click on ads.

You are wondering which download button is the real one. Immediately and do not understand. The download button gets lost between the fake download buttons.

Can you guess which download button is the real one?

Force subscription

Nothing foreshadowed trouble. You found a great service and decided to try the subscription trial period. When registering, you were asked to provide your credit card information. This is not a problem as it is a “free trial”. After a while, you checked your account and found out that this company secretly deducts a commission from your credit card every month. How so? You have not received any notifications. This pattern starts working when the free trial of the service ends and your money is debited without warning.

Audible offers a month of trial for free. But after it ends, users are not asked if they want to renew their subscription.


The Litmus app also offers a free trial. It takes the user s credit card information, but does not show how much the user will be charged.


Forcing subscription renewals is usually associated with the following clever tactic …

Want to say goodbye? It is not so easy!

You may come across this pattern after you easily register on the site. But when you want to stop using the service, you will not find an easy way to cancel the automatic renewal of your subscription.

Stamps.com is a great example of this pattern.


Tricky Questions – Check or Uncheck? That is the question

This is a common situation with confirmation pop-ups. You are reading and do not know whether to click OK or CANCEL – both are fine. Problems also arise with ambiguous checkboxes during payments and subscriptions.

Royal Mail first prompts users to check the box to not receive messages, and then they must leave the box to receive messages. Confusing isn t it?


Animation by Wiktor Buksza from 10Clouds

I believe that good design and good business are based on empathy for users

I ve said before that dark design patterns often have a negative impact on business, but many companies still use them. Why? Well, perhaps in order to actively promote services that are not attractive enough to users.

Of course, they can increase profits in a short time, but long-term relationships with users are based on good experience and trust… Designers should focus on providing the user with a great product experience. And they shouldn t cheat on their users.

“It s just a matter of time before a competitor comes along to provide the best experience. If your business depends on dark patterns, then you are on the path of self-destruction. “

Harry Brignall

Users don t like being tricked and may post examples of dark patterns on social media. Check the hashtag #darkpattern on Twitter and you ll find tons of posts. Awareness of these tricks must grow to keep you from falling into unethical trapsarranged by brands.

If you re looking for guidance on developing ethically humane digital products, visit this site: https://humanebydesign.com/

Designers should advocate for honest design that rules out any deception.

Want to know more about dark patterns? Like it. You can also check out my article on Top UX Trends in 2019… What are the challenges facing designers? Displays grow faster than our thumbs ?

Thanks to Gialdo Muller.

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