Dark Pattern Trickery Hurts Us All

Can We Undo It?

Do web designers, specifically User Interface Designers, have an ethical obligation to users?  What if our client asks us to do something that we find unethical, such as tricking users into unwanted services or blatantly misleading them?  What if our client wants a design that doesn’t have their own best interests in mind?  Do we refuse the work?  Should we walk away?  Harry Brignull of darkpatterns.org believes that we should educate clients, spread awareness, and to name and shame the sites that use Dark Patterns.

A Dark Pattern is a type of user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things, such as buying insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills.

In 2011, ten60six exposed the damaging effects of black-hat SEO, a practice that will get you banned from Google.  As opposed to white-hat SEO, black hat tries to trick search engines into ranking their content.  It almost always fails.  As we’ve shown, organic search results are Google’s bread & butter.  Without credible search results, Google’s reputation and ultimately its business model would suffer.  The same holds true for websites that use deceptive design to trick people.  As humans become more aware of Dark Patterns in manipulative interface design, they shun the shady tactics and look for honest, credible businesses.  It’s a web designers duty to help our clients build a brand that is trusted by users for years to come, not to build a misleading website that will just scam them once.


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