Dark by design

It points to a widespread toxic culture of greed and consumer manipulation.

Dark Patterns are design tricks used by companies on their web interfaces, which are used to deliberately deceive consumers into making decisions that under normal circumstances, they never would have made.

The practice of using Dark Patterns is increasing considerably - and most consumers are not even aware that they are being manipulated.

'Think about the times you felt tricked or frustrated by a membership or subscription that had a seamless signup process but was later difficult to cancel. Something that should be simple and transparent can be complicated, intentionally or unintentionally, in ways that impair consumer choice. These are examples of dark patterns.'

Designers that have turned to the dark side use tricks of the trade that have names like Roach Hotel, Confirmshaming and Sneak into Basket.

Here's an example that might feel rather familiar to you too:

'In January 2018, Kelly Ross, a mother of three in Washington, D.C., saw a charge from the children’s education app, ABCmouse, which her kids hadn’t used for nearly four years. She thought she had canceled her subscription and called the company asking why she’d received a bill for about $50.

She remembered the company responded that she should have read the fine print. It wasn’t until Ross called the company out on Twitter that she got a refund, but the experience still frustrates her years later.

“I felt duped in some way because behind the scenes of this wholesome image in this company, they use these deceptive practices,” Ross said. “It should have been more straight-up to be able to cancel it and be done and not have my information on file.”' - via

This rising issue is at its heart - an issue of trust; and yet another example of how technology companies in particular regularly seem to breach ethical codes of conduct.

Just to state the obvious - adopting a strategy of trying to screw your customer is not a sustainable way to do business.

Perhaps outside of the rouge design department that puts these dark patterns in place the rest of the organisation is also unaware of their existence, but then it points to a widespread toxic culture of greed and consumer manipulation that is of far greater concern,

As an issue of serious concern there should then be a concerted effort by leadership to root out the practice to avoid any further risk.

For everyone else - name and shame the culprits so that we can avoid those companies.

Dark Patterns that Mislead Consumers Are All Over the Internet – The Markup
Think you can tell a dark pattern from an ethically designed prompt? Take our quiz to find out
Council Post: When Web Designs Turn Into Dark Patterns And What To Do About It
Business and nonprofit leaders must be ready to work and collaborate to create meaningful industry self-regulation programs with clear accountability mechanisms, credible guidelines and meaningful outcomes.