You might not have heard the term but you have already experienced a dark pattern. So what is it? In the simplest terms, a dark pattern is “… a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things, such as buying insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills.” as explained by the experience designer, Harry Brignull
Disguised Ads – Where is the Download?
are tactics when advertising banners are displayed as the rest of the content or navigation – buttons, sliders, registration form etc. Their main role is to confuse users and get them to click on the ad. It makes you question which download button is the real one. Not so clear is it? The download button gets lost in between the fake “download” buttons
It starts so nicely and peacefully. You’ve found a great service, and you’ve decided to sign up for a trial. When signing up, you were asked to provide your credit card information. Not a big problem as it’s a “free trial”. After some time, you’ve checked your billings, and it has showed that this company has secretly deducted a fee each month from your credit card. How come? You didn’t get any notification beforehand. This pattern
occurs when your free trial with a service ends, and you quietly get charged without warning.
Light Pattern Designs: What should designers be doing?
What, then, does the future look like? What is ‘light pattern design’
? The way forward – at least where privacy and consent are concerned – must be user centric
. This means genuinely asking for permission – using honesty to win trust by enabling rather than disabling user control.
Designs must support usability and clarity, presenting a genuine, good faith choice. Which means no privacy-hostile defaults: So opt-ins, not opt-outs, and consent that is freely given because it’s based on genuine information not self-serving deception, and because it can also always be revoked at will.
Design must also be empathetic. It must understand and be sensitive to diversity –offering clear options without being intentionally overwhelming. The goal is to close the perception gap between what’s being offered and what the customer thinks they’re getting.
As marketers it may be easier to use dark patterns to trick, but stop thinking of your viewer as just a ‘user’ – think of them as a potential customer – what can we do so that they have the best experience with your brand.