Aug 11, 2023 191 views

Exploring Dark Patterns; The Dark Side of Web Design

Category: Blog

In recent years the concept of dark patterns has emerged as a concerning issue. Dark patterns refer to user interface design choices that are intentionally deceptive manipulative or exploitative designed to mislead or trick consumers into making decisions they might not have otherwise made. These design tactics subtly nudge individuals towards certain actions often benefiting companies at the expense of the consumer’s best interest. Harry Brignull coined the term “dark patterns” in 2010 and has been keeping tabs on them ever since on his website. Recently, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India, has established a 17-member task force to develop guidelines for consumer protection to address the issue of dark patterns. The Ministry has started classifying complaints received on the National Consumer Helpline to compile information on Dark Patterns, which can be used by the Central Consumer Protection Authority to initiate action under the Consumer Protection Act 2019.

Some major types of Dark Patterns:

False Urgency: This tactic creates a sense of urgency or scarcity to pressure consumers into making a purchase or taking an action.

Basket Sneaking:  Dark patterns are used to add additional products or services to the shopping cart without the user’s consent.

Subscription Traps: This tactic makes it easy for consumers to sign up for a service but difficult for them to cancel it, often by hiding the cancellation option or requiring multiple steps.

Confirm shaming: It involves guilt as a way to make consumers adhere. It criticise or attack consumers for not conforming to a particular belief or viewpoint.

Forced Action: This involves forcing consumers into taking an action they may not want to take, such as signing up for a service in order to access content.

Nagging: It refers to persistent, repetitive and annoyingly constant criticism, complaints, requests for action.

Interface Interference: This tactic involves making it difficult for consumers to take certain actions, such as cancelling a subscription or deleting an account.

Bait and Switch: This involves advertising one product or service but delivering another, often of lower quality.

Hidden Costs: When a specific price is displayed for a product or a service, and the price shockingly increases (taxes and delivery fees) once the user moves ahead with the checkout.

Disguised Ads: A disguised ad is a dark pattern where an advertisement banner on the website or the app looks similar to useful content that the user is looking for and falsely clicks on to realise later that they have been spammed.

Triggering FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): This is more prevalent on the eCommerce websites where a user is told “Only a few left” to trigger a purchase action. This is done by almost every eCommerce business today to increase order volumes.

Triggering Fear: In these types of dark design patterns, a user is suggested not to opt-out of a subscription or a feature selection as it can lead to negative consequences. For instance, Facebook relies on “intrusive default settings” and “misleading wordings.”

 

The Consumer Affairs dept advised online platform to not engage in ‘unfair trade practices’ by incorporating dark patterns in their online interface to manipulate consumer choice. Concerned over the increasing ‘dark patterns’ of misleading advertisements, creating false urgency, confirm-shaming, forced action, subscription traps and nagging on online platforms, the Union Consumer Affairs Ministry has decided to issue specific guidelines to control it. Secretary of the Ministry, Rohit Kumar Singh, urged consumers to flag such manipulative online practices on the National Consumer Helpline (NCH) by calling ‘1915’ or through a WhatsApp message to 8800001915. He asked online platforms to refrain from adopting ‘dark patterns’ harming consumer interest.

 

Source: (vox.com, drishtiias.com, pib.gov.in, the hindu.com)

 

 

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