Have you ever noticed the small pop-ups on the web pages that you click to exit, but it tricks you into something else? These are quirky call-to-action buttons embedded into the UX of websites. They are placed at a very unusual location on the webpage, and their design is very compact.
This is called a dark pattern; it is a design that tricks users into taking actions they might not otherwise take.
Dark patterns may seem like just another trend to lure people, but it’s more than that. They fool your brain and make you do something against your will. For instance, cookie notices are meant to be annoying and give you the feeling of wanting to close them as soon as possible.
Typically, you want to find certain information as soon as possible, and you do not like the content to be blocked by endless pop-ups.
Here we will reveal well-known ways that dark patterns employ to trick your brain into doing what the website owners want them to do.
Brute Force Tricks
The “Cancel my account” link requires more than a casual glance to find. It’s no surprise why many people don’t cancel their accounts when they want to do so, even though it would be easy if there were an obvious link.
The trick here is that the website owners don’t want you to cancel your account. So, they put their trick, which requires clicking on a page with an obtuse name to make sure you are canceling your account by choice.
Misdirecting Users Intentionally
This dark pattern works by making it easy to click on the desired action button but difficult to find the easiest way out. The “x” buttons are intentionally placed far from your cursor, so you have to scroll back and forth just to get out of the webpage.
It creates many loops for users, each time making users go deeper into the website or online store without even knowing that they are being led.
It is implemented by common methods like designing the “accept” button bigger than the “no thanks” button on the websites. This tricks you into accepting their terms and conditions or any other deals.
This dark pattern plays on your fear of missing out, making you click the “I Accept” button before you are done reading it.
The website owners use this method to start collecting your data as soon as possible, which they can use for money. But you often don’t want to miss out on any deal and fall prey to its tricks.
In some cases, the misleading pop-ups can even redirect you to dangerous websites as soon you interact with them. At times like these, a VPN app can help you evade the dangers of such websites.
It encrypts your connection and the data you supply online. Thus, suspicious websites will not have a chance to read the data you submit.
This method works by making you compare two items even though they differ in price significantly, so you will go for the slightly more expensive item because it’s “better.”
For example, e-commerce websites have a decoy effect where they place an expensive item right next to a cheaper one, making you think that the slightly more expensive one is not much more.
This tricks you into buying the slightly more expensive item because it looks like it’s not that bad compared to the “cheap” one.
This pattern tricks you into thinking that you are getting a free trial, but it isn’t free in reality. It is hidden in the fine print; they will start charging your credit card or any other deal like that when the trial period ends.
The website owners do this to make money by getting you hooked on their products. They assume that if you like the product, you will completely forget about the fine prints and continue with them without even realizing what is happening.
This tricks your credit card data into staying with the company, which they can use for making more money in the future.
How to Recognize Dark Patterns?
Dark patterns are difficult to recognize because they look like normal web pages and can even ploy you into buying things you don’t need.
But the best that you can do from your side is to pay strict attention to the things that seem dubious to you. Read all the terms and conditions that are mentioned before tapping the “I Accept.” However, it may look like a daunting task to read so many words, but in the end, it is also going to save you.
Moreover, there are some digital advocacy groups like The Electronic Frontier Foundation, Report, DarkPatterns.org, etc.
If you recognize any above-mentioned dark patterns, then you must flag them on these groups. These groups put pressure on the companies to adopt fairer means to do business.
Dark patterns can trick your brain into accepting things that you don’t want to accept. However, it’s up to you what path you choose, the path of darkness or the path of light, by not falling for such false prompts.