At what point does a design choice tip into the realm of dark pattern?

Blair Fast
8 replies
Is it about intent? How do marketing teams grapple with this? What about anti-patterns?

Replies

Editor | Copywriter | Strategist
Juicy question! Perhaps this is naive, but it seems like a lot of dark patterns have one thing in common: the people who designed them didn't set out with the intention to create a "dark pattern." Sometimes it's the manifestation of extreme tunnel vision. They just know they want people to do "x," so they create a slippery, frictionless path to "x." And I don't say this to excuse dark patterns (and obviously, there are those situations where designs are intentionally manipulative). I guess I just don't think ALL the onus should be on the design choices... those ladder up to business goals and I suppose it's the responsibility of the whole company to ensure that they're achieving those goals in an ethical way that doesn't deprive users of their agency.
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Architect based in Berlin
I was listening to the Product Hunt Radio episode with Nir Eyall where he talks about the "Regret Test". It that might help when there is a suspicion of "dark-patterns" seeping into your product, by asks "would the user do what we have designed them to do, knowing everything that we know?"... check it out, around the 25min mark. https://product-hunt-radio.simpl...
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Customer Strategy | Experience Design
@danroc I have the book and the podcast is great! Thanks for sharing :)
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Founder of Product Hunt & Weekend Fund
Love this question. @nireyal writes about this (the regret test) in his new book, Indistractable and in this blog post. It provides a good framework for evaluating product design decisions.
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Educator and UX Designer
I would consider any design that prevents the user from doing what they want to do or get them to accidentally do something against their interests, and done in the interests of the company, a dark pattern. Adding unnecessary friction for cancelations is a common source of dark patterns: having to send a request to cancel, or need to get on a support call, or send an email, or the button colors are made intentionally confusing, or making the option hard to reach, etc. Great design overlaps user interests and company interests. When the user wants to part ways they should be able to do so with ease.
Customer Strategy | Experience Design
@haideralmosawi Thanks Haider. What's your favourite example of a product that does a great job of avoiding dark patterns?
Educator and UX Designer
@blair_fast I honestly can't recall any examples of seamless experiences. I may need to keep an eye out for those (it's easier to notice a dark pattern than acknowledging when it's not being used). Dark patterns I have a few recent examples of. 🤣
Customer Strategy | Experience Design
@haideralmosawi Fair enough! Share if you come across something!