Deception, Internet Style – Nickel and Dimmed by the Big Guys

November 6th, 2011

I just had a great read over at A-List-Apart.

The article is called “Dark Patterns: Deception vs Honesty in UI Design“. It’s about deceptive tactics used by websites to either get information, solicit and/or auto-sign you up for premium services.

Many of the sites I build aren’t geared towards converting readers into profit. For some strange reason all of my sites are the opposite, just good ol’ fashion free information.

Don’t Click the Download Button!

The article reminds me of my early days on the interweb, it could have been I was a web rookie or maybe I have just become cynical over the years, but have you ever been to a website that your trying to download a file and you see a big download button right where you’d expect one to be. Only after you click on it do you realize it was just an ad for some useless website. Deceptive!

In the article Harry gives examples of different levels of deception in UI design. There is white – straight up honest. There is black – completely deceptive. Everything else is gray. He also touches on some psychological points on where we as end users get taken advantage of:

  • “We don’t read pages. We scan them” —Steve Krug
  • “People tend to stick to the defaults” —Jakob Nielsen
  • “People will do things that they see other people are doing” —Robert Cialdini

It is a fact that I scan websites. Besides, nothing is better than picking up some great information in just a few seconds. The ‘white’ side of UI design will make things obvious in headings and font that stands out. The ‘dark’ side will bury the facts in WOT’s (wall of text).

I can’t say I stick to defaults anymore. I learned after my first 2-3 email accounts to start scrutinizing the check-boxes a bit better. I knew I was never popular enough to be receiving 20 emails a day anyhow.

Would you like fees with that?

One of the most interesting parts of Dark Patterns was something that hit very close to me. The DAMNED fees that come with certain web checkout processes. The article states that most of these fees do not give disclosure until the checkout process and that the fees are so minimal that users end up paying them rather than finding another site and going through the checkout process again.

End the Deception

Overall I enjoyed the article and the information is very informative when it comes to UI design and ways to avoid deception. Make sure when your in the checkout to see if any fees are added, watch out for lack of important information and be weary of those check boxes!

-Maynard

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  1. Jared SteinDecember 11, 2011

    Great find here. You’re the second student this week to choose an “ethics of web design” type of article. Having been tricked into a hidden membership by one of my favorite web design publishing sites just this last week, this topic was on the cusp of my mind.

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