Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Dark Patterns

No, this post does not provide you with laundry hints about what sort of patterns not to wash with your light patterns. Today, we look at an interesting topic that I think I vaguely knew about, but didn't realize had a name and a pedigree of sorts. Listen up - I think you'll find this both interesting and unsettling.

I came across the term "dark pattern" on WordSpy, where it was defined this way:

noun. A website design feature that attempts to trick a user into doing something they might not do otherwise.

If you're like me*, you have often found yourself faced with a confusing set of choices or settings on websites that leave you befuddled as to what exactly you are supposed to do to achieve the end result you wish. It may be a difficult process for unsubscribing from an e-mail list, the insanely convoluted system by which you can adjust your privacy settings on Facebook, or the relentless pressure exerted by Microsoft to force you to upgrade to Windows 10. Whatever it is, you and I have become the victims of a dark pattern, a software or website setting specifically designed to trick you into taking an action you might otherwise not wish to perform.

For instance, you might face advertisements designed to prevent you from making apples-to-apples comparisons between the same products at different stores ... perhaps by setting the price in odd quantities or by bundling them with other products you might not otherwise want. Another example is the special free-trial offer that requires you to submit your credit card information up front, and then automatically charges you to continue with the product or service unless you "opt out" ... a process that is generally made confusing and difficult enough to make you just shrug and keep whatever it is. You can see other examples of dark patterns here.

Dark patterns abound this year ... consider the candidacy of Donald Trump, who wants you to vote for him because he will "make America great again." The dark pattern here is that a vote to "make America great again" will fulfill that promise by ignoring the Constitution, accepting complete rejection and denial of documented facts, and destroying the philosophies and behaviors that actually do make America great.

Beware of dark patterns, especially when camouflaged in orange.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* And heaven help you if you are.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

Wise advice as usual Bilbo! Sometimes it is hard to unsubscribe.

Duckbutt said...

I know what you mean! I had the devil of a time getting out of a subscription. Guess what? No notice; and they renew it early in my opinion. Nowadays, I never subscribe with a credit card.

Trump does not move me.

John Hill said...

Sounds like a good title for a crime solving, mass murderer, detective kind of novel.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Now there are some phishing messages bring ransomeware into the mix.

Mike said...

The less you want something, the harder it is to unsubscribe.