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posted by cmn32480 on Saturday July 30 2016, @05:49PM   Printer-friendly
from the read-all-the-terms dept.

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Everyone has been there. So in 2010, London-based UX designer Harry Brignull decided he’d document it. Brignull’s website,, offers plenty of examples of deliberately confusing or deceptive user interfaces. These dark patterns trick unsuspecting users into a gamut of actions: setting up recurring payments, purchasing items surreptitiously added to a shopping cart, or spamming all contacts through prechecked forms on Facebook games.

Dark patterns aren’t limited to the Web, either. The Columbia House mail-order music club of the '80s and '90s famously charged users exorbitant rates for music they didn’t choose if they forgot to specify what they wanted. In fact, negative-option billing began as early as 1927, when a book club decided to bill members in advance and ship a book to anyone who didn’t specifically decline. Another common offline example? Some credit card statements boast a 0 percent balance transfer but don’t make it clear that the percentage will shoot up to a ridiculously high number unless a reader navigates a long agreement in tiny print.

“The way that companies implement the deceptive practices has gotten more sophisticated over time,” said UX designer Jeremy Rosenberg, a contributor to the Dark Patterns site. “Today, things are more likely to be presented as a benefit or obscured as a benefit even if they’re not.”

When you combine the interactive nature of the Web, increasingly savvy businesses, and the sheer amount of time users spend online, it’s a recipe for dark pattern disaster. And after gaining an awareness for this kind of deception, you’ll recognize it’s nearly ubiquitous.

With six years of data, Brignull has broken dark patterns down into 14 categories. There are hidden costs users don’t see until the end. There’s misdirection, where sites attract user attention to a specific section to distract them from another. Other categories include sites that prevent price comparison or have tricky or misleading opt-in questions. One type, Privacy Zuckering, refers to confusing interfaces tricking users into sharing more information than they want to. (It’s named after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, of course.) Though perhaps the worst class of dark pattern is forced continuity, the common practice of collecting credit card details for a free trial and then automatically billing users for a paid service without an adequate reminder.

But while hackers and even SEO firms are often distinguished as “white hat” or “black hat,” intent isn’t always as clear when it comes to dark patterns. Laura Klein, Principal at Users Know and author of UX for Lean Startups, is quick to point out that sometimes it’s just a really, really poor design choice. “To me, dark patterns are very effective in their goal, which is to trick the user into doing something that they would not otherwise do,” she said. Shady patterns, on the other hand, simply push the company’s agenda over the user’s desires without being explicitly deceptive.

-- submitted from IRC

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  • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Saturday July 30 2016, @07:48PM

    by darkfeline (1030) on Saturday July 30 2016, @07:48PM (#382031) Homepage

    Double-click causes more problems than it solves, if any. From an accessibility standpoint, double-clicking is a nightmare (for elderly users, for whom simply clicking once without moving the mouse off their intended target is difficult, imagine trying to click twice within a half-second window). Just add more buttons to mice, for god's sake, and maybe redesign your failed UI (hint: it's called GUI. Moving the keyboard to the mouse does not make the UI more user-friendly).

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @10:33PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 30 2016, @10:33PM (#382084)

    One click ought to be enough for anyone.

  • (Score: 2, Informative) by anubi on Sunday July 31 2016, @07:35AM

    by anubi (2828) on Sunday July 31 2016, @07:35AM (#382201) Journal

    Often, old mice double-click all by themselves. This can go on for a long time as many programs will treat it as one click.

    I have been using one of these old mice and did not know it was doubleclicking until I used it on Eagle ( PCB layout routing ), and it was confusing Eagle.

    ( The doubleclicking is caused by contact wear and corrosion - which results in an electrically noisy contact make ).

    "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by gidds on Thursday August 04 2016, @01:23PM

    by gidds (589) on Thursday August 04 2016, @01:23PM (#384045)

    EPOC had what I thought was a very good way around this: tap-to-select, tap-again-to-activate.  (EPOC was the OS used by touchscreen-based devices such as the Psion Series 5 and 7, and which developed into Symbian OS.)

    The way it worked was that if an on-screen object wasn't selected, a tap would select it (the same as most UIs); if it was selected, then a tap would action/open/activate it.  The effect was that a double-tap would usually do what you expected — but it didn't matter how long you left between taps, nor whether they were in exactly the same place.

    It seemed a very good and intuitive system, and a neat way around the existing problems of double-clicking, as well as the additional difficulties introduced by a touchscreen.  I'm surprised it wasn't picked up by any other UIs.

    [sig redacted]