Trick questionYou fill out a form and there’s a question that tricks you into giving an answer you did not mean to give. The question seems to ask for one thing, but when read carefully it actually asks for something else.
MisdirectionA very common one. Misdirection draws your attention to something so that you wouldn’t notice the other thing that the company doesn’t want you to see.
ConfirmshamingThis dark pattern makes a person feel bad for opting out. You often see examples of confirmshaming when you’re about to decline a special offer, delete something from your shopping cart, or when a site or app tries to convince you to subscribe for the newsletter.
Sneak into basketYou’re in the process of buying something online and at some point an extra item is added to your basket without your conscious consent. This often happens if you did not check or uncheck a box. To make it even worse that extra item in your basket sometimes only becomes clearly visible a few pages later. Luckily this dark patterns has become illegal is some EU countries.
Roach motelThis one is extremely dirty. It’s when you can very easily get into a situation -often it’s being subscribed- but it’s made very hard for you to leave that situation. Maybe you just wanted to buy some headphones but the webshop sneaked a subscription to a DJ magazine into your basket. You should have carefully read the small letters and uncheck a box to decline the magazine subscription. But you didn’t. A few weeks later you get this unfamiliar magazine delivered to your doorstep. Maybe it’s a free trial? One month later you get another one. You check your bank account and notice that you’ve made 2 payments of €12 to some unknown recipient. Time to find out how to unsubscribe and possibly reclaim that money!
Privacy ZuckeringYup, this one is named after that guy from Facebook. Privacy Zuckering happens when you share more information about yourself than you wanted to share. Your shopping behavior, your sexual kinks, your mental health and the places you like to go to are known. This data is all captured and traded without much regulations between companies behind the scenes. The data brokerage industry may have dramatic effects on your future quality of life. It could affect your chances of getting a loan or a job for instance if your bank or interviewer has bought some of that information about you.
Price comparison preventionThis one prevents you from making an informed purchase because you cannot compare the price of an item with relevant other items. Instead, you get to see items that are unrelated or that are somewhat related but hard to compare.
Hidden costsWhen you only get to see the extra costs you have to pay once you’re at the checkout, you’re the victim of hidden costs. You’ve committed to purchasing an item by adding it to your basket and you went through the entire process of getting it delivered. You created an account and entered your address, payment details and what not. Okay. All that work has been done and you’re one click away from ordering. That’s when the hidden costs are mentioned. Fuck. There’s no way back now.
Bait and switchSo you’re clicking or tapping to deal with something, but your actions result into the opposite outcome of the one you wanted. You were lured into performing the wrong action.
Disguised adsPretty self-explanatory name. These are ads that don’t look like ads. The purpose of this of course is to make people click more ads because this generates money.
Forced continuityHey, why not try this great stock analysis tool for free for a month? Sure! But after a few hours you feel like the tool cannot really offer you the value you’re looking for and you return to your old ways of working. After that month has passed you are silently becoming a paying customer for the tool and each month a fixed amount gets taken from your credit card. Only after you’ve noticed the weird bank statements you find out what’s been happening. Now you’re facing the challenge of stopping these automatic renewals. That’s rarely an easy thing to do.
Friend spamSometimes you get a message from someone you know a little and the message just feels a bit weird. You get an email or a chat message from this person who’s recommending a product out of nowhere.
A great UX is designed around how people think.
1. Limit the amount of options a user hasWhen you limit people’s freedom, they will react negatively (Zemack-Rugar et al., 2017). So you don’t want to offer too few choices to your user or to force him/her to act a certain way. But you also don’t want to maze users with too many choices either because this increases the time and effort a user needs to make her/his decision (Nikolov, 2017). Booking a hotel on Airbnb could be way more streamlined if Airbnb actually anticipated what you’re looking for. Instead of scrolling through all options, Airbnb could suggest a handful of options by knowing already what you would want to spend per night, by knowing you want a King size bed and a gym nearby, and that you want to live in a young and vibrant area. It is better to already personalize and provide a targeted selection proactively. Key takeaway; Don’t ask the user to make too many selections her/himself. Already anticipate what the user wants and display a selection of all options.
2. Don’t force users to do something, but suggest them insteadLet’s stay with the example of Airbnb here. The platform nailed this technique pretty well. Users are not forced to select any dates or the amount of guests, but they still get to see places to stay. Airbnb just suggests that it is better to select dates and the number of guests to see accurate prices per night. Getting an accurate price is a good reason for the user to enter the dates and the amount of guests, so the user will enter her/his preferences without feeling forced to do so.
3. Users copy the behavior of other users, so use social proof to steer behaviorWhen people don’t really know what to do or choose, they follow the behavior of others (Cialdini, 2006). For this unknowing user it is easy to think that the right thing to do or choose, is to just copy others. The more people have shown a certain behavior before, the more an individual thinks it is right to follow the others.
4. Users value something more if it is scarceScarcity is a trick to boost conversions (Cialdini, 2006) and it is often scarce on purpose, just to increase the perceived value. This technique is often used is a sneaky way to create more revenue. An example of this is an expensive limited edition bag that is as costly to manufacture as the generic edition that is reasonably priced. But scarcity can also be used to stimulate good user behavior by leveraging actual scarcity, instead of faking it. A great example of real scarcity to steer good user behavior is found in the UX of Uber Eats. Here, users can share the delivery costs with others if they order fast. The timing of deliveries really is scarce and this can be used ethically to convince users to order a dish. A user that orders right now, will get it delivered at a lower price because (s)he can share the delivery costs with another user. A win-win for both users, but also for Uber Eats because users are better convinced and deliveries can be more streamlined.
5. Users want to stay consistent with their past behaviorPeople think of new tasks as something negative. To lower that negative feeling and to convince people to perform the action, make sure their initial new task is very small. Once your user has performed that one small task, you can ask your user to do a slightly bigger task that is linked to the smaller one. Your user will want to stay consistent with his/her past behavior and will now be more likely to take the rest of the tasks (Cialdini, 2006).
Did you spot the least ethical UX? It was the one on social proof. This UX steers an uneducated user towards a purchase that might not be best for her/him, while the other examples reduce mental effort for the user in a less intrusive way. These are just a few examples to explain how knowledge of behavioral economics is key to UX design.