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Dark patterns

Dark patterns definition

Dark patterns are design techniques that use tricks or manipulation to lead users to make decisions that are against their interests or prevent them from exercising their free will. These patterns are crafted to confuse users and exploit their cognitive biases.

Dark patterns are found in various digital interfaces, including websites and mobile apps. Physical products also occasionally use dark patterns.

See also: social engineering

Common types of dark patterns

  • Misdirection. By redirecting user attention away from certain actions or information, dark patterns often steer users towards an outcome preferred by the service they’re using.
  • Forced continuity. Dark patterns often make it difficult for users to cancel or unsubscribe from a service, usually by hiding the option or requiring multiple steps to complete the unsubscription process.
  • Hidden costs. Dark patterns conceal additional charges or fees until the final stages of a transaction.
  • Sneak into Basket. Users might find extra items in their shopping cart they didn’t add due to pre-selected checkboxes or confusing opt-in mechanisms.

These are just a few examples, as there are many variations of dark patterns, and they’re constantly evolving. Not all design techniques aimed at influencing user behavior are considered dark patterns. The key distinction lies in the intent to deceive or manipulate users in a way that undermines their autonomy.