Max Böck (previously) is fed up with the sorry state of the web these days, sentiments I share completely. And here’s Rubens Cantuni with similar thoughts on habit-forming app design, “like seeing those tobacco commercials from the 50s.”
A different kind of dark web
It’s a topic I’ve mentioned before, but here’s another round-up of the ways web design can be quite manipulative.
The rise of dark web design: how sites manipulate you into clicking – The Conversation
Dark design has proven to be an incredibly effective way of encouraging web users to part with their time, money and privacy. This in turn has established “dark patterns”, or sets of practices designers know they can use to manipulate web users. They’re difficult to spot, but they’re increasingly prevalent in the websites and apps we use every day, creating products that are manipulative by design, much like the persistent, ever-present pop-ups we’re forced to close when we visit a new website.
How dark patterns trick you online – Nerdwriter1: YouTube
Some of the responsibility’s on us, but some is on design too. And it’s not the fault of the designers; they’re just doing what they’re tasked to do, knowing full well that if they don’t, others will. As Brignull says, our best defence against the dark patterns is to be aware of them and shame the companies who utilise them.
For more info on the different types, here’s a direct, non-sneaky, no-nonsense link to Harry Brignull’s website.
Google’s dark patterns
Google’s being sneaky again. Last year I shared an article about research into ‘dark patterns’, sneaky user interface tricks that shopping websites use to catch us out. It seems the
search advertising giant is getting in on the act now.
Google’s ads just look like search results now – The Verge
Last week, Google began rolling out a new look for its search results on desktop, which blurs the line between organic search results and the ads that sit above them. In what appears to be something of a purposeful dark pattern, the only thing differentiating ads and search results is a small black-and-white “Ad” icon next to the former. It’s been formatted to resemble the new favicons that now appear next to the search results you care about. Early data collected by Digiday suggests that the changes may already be causing people to click on more ads.
Indeed, when I search for pet insurance, I can hardly see any real search results without scrolling down.
Google made a big change to search results that makes it harder to distinguish ads from regular results, and people are calling Google out for it – Business Insider
This is not the first time Google has been accused of using manipulative design practices, known as “dark patterns,” to trick users into clicking on ads.
The Wall Street Journal reporter Rolfe Winkler said the Federal Trade Commission sent letters in 2013 to Google and other search engines saying the distinction between ads and organic search results had become “less noticeable to consumers.” In the letters, the FTC told the companies to “make any necessary adjustments to ensure you clearly and prominently disclose any advertising.”
I’d say those letters have been completely ignored, wouldn’t you?
Google backtracks on desktop search redesign blurring ads from organic results – Boing Boing
Google’s recently announced new redesign of desktop search results would have made ads pretty much look exactly like search results. Google is now backtracking, listening to the criticism, and trying a different visual approach.
Google backtracks on search results design – TechCrunch
The company acknowledged that its latest experiment might have gone too far in its latest statement and noted that it will “experiment further” on how it displays results.
A team of US academics have published research, Dark Patterns at Scale: Findings from a Crawl of 11K Shopping Websites, which they believe shows the massive prevalence of sneaky user interface tricks designed to catch us out.
The seven deadly sins of the 2010s: No, not pride, sloth, etc. The seven UI ‘dark patterns’ that trick you into buying stuff
Dark patterns – user interfaces designed to deviously manipulate people into doing things – have become common enough on websites and in apps that almost two dozen providers have sprung up to supply behavior persuasion as a service.
And in some cases, these firms openly advertise deceptive marketing techniques, describing ways to generate fake product orders and social messages celebrating those fake orders.
These are their proposed categories of user-interface tricks.
Attempting to misrepresent user actions, or delay information that if made available to users, they would likely object to.
Imposing a deadline on a sale or deal, thereby accelerating user decision-making and purchases.
Using visuals, language, or emotion to steer users toward or away from making a particular choice.
Influencing users’ behavior by describing the experiences and behavior of other users.
Signalling that a product is likely to become unavailable, thereby increasing its desirability to users.
Making it easy for the user to get into one situation but hard to get out of it.
Forcing the user to do something tangential in order to complete their task.
‘Urgency’ and ‘scarcity’ sound like pretty standard advertising methods that we should be very used to by now, but some of those others are very dubious. Here are some screenshots from the research paper.
Fig. 3. Three types of the Sneaking category of dark patterns.
Fig. 5. Four types of the Misdirection category of dark patterns.
What can be done? Here’s one idea they discuss in the paper which I like the sound of.
Fig. 10. Mockup of a possible browser extension that can be developed using our data set. The extension flags instances of dark patterns with a red warning icon. By hovering over the icon, the user can learn more about the specific pattern.