5 Reasons Why Dark Patterns in UX are Bad for Your Business

5 Reasons Why Dark Patterns in UX are Bad for Your Business

Starting a business is one thing, understanding what would make it prosper is another. Sadly, many businesses fall in the trap of wrongful business tactics in the race to quick growth & more profits.

Most business models have focused on self-interest instead of user experience.
– Tim Cook, Apple

One of the unethical business tactics that are used these days, often even unknowingly, is the use of something called “Dark patterns“: tricks and gimmicks used to fool a user into doing something they did not intend to.

Here is everything you need to know about dark patterns.

What are Dark Patterns?

If there is a simple way to understand dark patterns, “manipulative design” fits the bill precisely.

It is the practice of carefully crafting the user interface (UI) to manipulate its user. The user ends up performing an action desired by the business, but not always knowing the true implications of that action. Or, something is made so complex or confusing that the user gives up on completing an undesired action.

It is often achieved with UI tricks that exploit cognitive bias. However, dark patterns have expanded to even use tricky language, social engineering, and many other tricks to fool the users.

A good example of dark patterns in UX is confirmshaming. When a user lands on a website URL, a pop-up window appears that prompts users to click on sign-up on their website, but associates a negative intent or result to denying the desired behavior.

What websites do wrong:

  • Sign up on our website to unlock exciting deals and offers.
    No, thanks! I do not want any deals.

(“I do not want any deals” is the dark pattern here. This very button makes the user fall into the trap of FOMO. In return, the user feels it like an obligation to click on the sign-up button).

What websites should be doing instead:

  • Sign up on our website for a more personalized experience.
    No, thanks! I’m just a guest visitor.

(“I’m just a guest visitor” is a simple and straightforward way of letting users give a pass. It should be completely a user’s choice to sign-up based on your website impression. So, in the end, your job is to make that impression count).

In simple words, never ever let your users feel guilty about not taking a particular action!

Reasons to Avoid Dark Patterns

While the idea of dark patterns in UX might seem irresistible, you will eventually lose customers’ trust and loyalty down the line. It is a complete no-no practice if you wish to climb the ladder of success based on how well you served customer expectations.

Let’s look at some logical reasons to stay away from dark patterns in UX.

1. Undesirable Outcomes are Frustrating

Gone are the times when users were naive and unaware of the internet and its user manipulating tactics. With changing times, users are like grown-up adults who understand everything and silently walk away when something seems deceiving.

Even according to research, 79 percent of users will go for another website if they do not like the content on a particular website.

If you are a start-up, the idea should be to present valid information that guides the users into taking a well-suited action unlike what Microsoft did a few years ago.

Microsoft prompted users to upgrade their Windows OS to Windows 10 when the new version got launched. The tech giant broke the commonality norm by automatically initializing the upgrade once the user clicked on the cross (X) button on the rightmost corner of the pop-up window.

This forceful upgradation became a reason for extended backlashes from the online community.

Thus, it is essential to understand that no business can enjoy customer loyalty if you have one dish on the menu and you serve a completely different one.

2. Disguised Content Will Make Users Abandon You

Sometimes, businesses rely on website design practices that do not draw a line between advertised and regular content. This uncalled for practice is aptly called disguised ad that lets you play with the users’ mind.

If you are making your ads look like regular navigation buttons, it is you who is completely at fault. Such practices look like an intentional initiative to get those extra clicks on the advertisements.

The biggest example of such false practice was followed by Softpedia, where ads looked similar to call-to-action buttons for downloading the software. It was common to click on such wrongful buttons, thus giving users a reason to flap away.

dark patterns approach followed by Softpedia

Do you know that only 40 percent of users click on an ad because it seems interesting while a whopping 34 percent click on an ad by mistake, often tricked into clicking them? Do not join this statistic on the wrong side or your users will definitely punish you, perhaps even labeling your interface difficult to use.

3. Dark Patterns Will Only Lead to Trust Issues in a Way

Asking information of a user more than what they intend to tell is the biggest sin that costs losing customer’s trust.

Take an example of a nagging neighbor who keeps on asking personal things from you. Would you like that? No, right? Then, why to make your customers suffer by doing the same thing to them.

Asking more than what is necessary is a dark pattern that has been existed online in the name of “knowing your users.” You would be shocked to know how Facebook has been accused of using dark patterns and compromising user privacy.

According to the report, Facebook relies on “intrusive default settings” and “misleading wordings.”

One example of how Facebook is using dark patterns is that it warns users not to disable the “facial recognition” feature as it can lead to another user impersonating you. This act of control is not at all acceptable to users.

Short Term Benefits of using dark patterns

You need to realize that whether you are a start-up or the much successful business like Facebook, you can’t compromise on user experience. Not even a bit!

4. Restricting Dark Patterns is Gaining Momentum

According to year-long research, there are about 1200 websites that contain dark patterns. And, over 200 of them are purely deceptive. This increasing trend of dark patterns in UX has become a major reason behind emerging design laws.

Yes, you heard that right! If your business introduces dark patterns in UX, you could land in a problem even before you reach your long-term dreams. And, these are not just speculations!

Congressional leaders in the US disclosed an all-new law to ban the usage of “Dark patterns” by online businesses.

This is one law that stands valid for online businesses with over 100 million users. Warner’s Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act make it an illegal practice to design interfaces that try to:

“Obscuring, subverting, or impairing user autonomy, decision-making, or choice to obtain consent or user data”

If you think that this does not make sense to your budding business, then think twice! If you have 1,000 users today, they would soon be converted to 100 million in the long run. So, if you follow the right design practices from the start, you would be on the right path.

5. Dark Patterns Send Wrong Messages to the Employees

Dark patterns are often chosen because they provide a short-cut to fulfilling desired business goals. Many businesses that actively use dark patterns do so knowingly at an ‘acceptable’ risk of annoying their users.

They forget their employees.

Sites like naming & shaming companies over their use of dark patterns. Many employees are discovering, to their horror, their beloved organizations listed. Then there are their friends and family who point out their employers’ nefarious tactics.

What do you think happens?

what happens if you use dark patterns in ux

There is no point in making employees and users suffer in any way. As you are in the lead, it is your responsibility to balance both the parties’ needs by not giving a priority to dark patterns.

Great User Experience is the Ultimate Satisfaction!

Making money the right way is an art that every business should excel in. There is always an add-on pleasure in offering a splendid user experience to the customers who show their satisfaction by showing up again and again.

It is great that you are entering the online business community, but it would be better if you do not follow the footsteps of dark pattern users. In the end, the goal should be to make a customer, not a sale!

Contact net solutions for ux consultancy

Dheeraj Khindri

About the Author

Dheeraj Khindri is currently working as a Senior UX Analyst with Net Solutions. He started out as a Business Analyst and moved onto User Experience (UX) Design due to his bent towards interactive prototyping. Besides work, Dheeraj enjoys pragmatism in poetry, writing for social causes, exploring the connections between world politics and literature.

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