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The "Dark Patterns" Lesson is part of the full, Web UX Design for High Converting Websites course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Paul defines dark patterns as user interface elements that have been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things they might not otherwise do. Dark patterns can manipulate the user psychologically by using techniques like scarcity or by visually emphasizing a favorable action item.


Transcript from the "Dark Patterns" Lesson

>> That knowledge of those psychological principles can be used for good or can be used for evil. And that's where dark patterns come in, this idea of manipulating people with psychology. So just because we're talking about psychology and an understanding of people doesn't mean automatically that we move into the world of dark patterns.

And I wanna address this issue of dark patterns because there are good reasons to avoid them. Now, you might not have come across the term dark patterns before, so let me just take a few minutes to explain what dark patterns are. And then we'll look at why you really should be avoiding them.

So I define dark patterns as user interface elements that have been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things they might not otherwise do, often by means of psychological manipulation, okay? And I can sum all of this up with this mock up that I've produced, okay? So this mock up, basically is a typical e-commerce site, is trying to sell a pair of shoes, right?

But obviously all good e-commerce sites wanna increase the average order value. They want people to spend more with them. So one way that a company might decide it wants to go about increasing the value it makes from people buying these shoes is to sell them insurance for their shoes, all right?

Absolutely ridiculous, who wants insurance for their shoes, right? But I could easily encourage somebody to do it. I could basically manipulate somebody to adding insurance to their shoes whether they wanted it or not. And that's exactly what this interface does, right? If you look at this interface, everything in you cries, if I want these shoes, I need to hit that green button, okay?

There are a loads of visual indicators that show that that is the right button to click. For a start, it's got an arrow that points to the right and that for us in western countries that read from left to right, is a sign of onwards, move forward, right?

So that logically feels like the next thing to do. Add to the fact that it's bright green and green, again in western society, is a color that we associate heavily with go, so that then indicates you move forward. Now, but there is actually another button right next to it.

And the other button looks like it's been grayed out, that it's not selectable. And it's also pointing backwards. But this is the moment that you're giving somebody a choice, right? If you could read the copy on the buttons, which by the way, I've purposely made hard to read because I don't want people reading it if I want to manipulate.

We've got add to basket with insurance on the green button and add to basket without insurance on the grayed out button. So in other words, I can easily trick somebody into doing something that I want them to. And we see these kinds of techniques, various psychological techniques being used all the time.

So this particular technique is relying on the fact that we favor system 1 over system 2. In other words, we're not consciously thinking about which button to click on. Instead, we're intuitively going to the button based on our previous experiences that green is good. That arrows to the right are onwards.

And so we're just going through without actually thinking about it was system 2. So that's the particular strain of psychology that's being used there. But there are actually lots of different techniques that can be used. So, you see, for example, things like this all the time. So I don't know whether you've ever used Etsy before.

But Etsy sells kind of one-off handcrafted goods, all right? And this particular one which is a vintage lamp that looks like a shotgun. Cuz why not, well, let's buy one of those today, shall we? This is a handmade one-off item and actually if you've read the overview description of it, it says that it's a handmade item.

Yet Etsy really wanna obviously encourage sales. So what they then do alongside that is they say, almost gone, there's only one item left. Well, of course there's only one item left, they're handmade and made to order, right? So there's only ever gonna be one left, but they really emphasized that.

And they also say not only that's our only one left, there's three people who've added this to their cart. It's gonna go any minute now because three people have added it to their cart. And worst still 63 people have favorited this item, right? So what they're doing there is they're tapping into your primal brain, that part of you that goes, I want to hoard things, I don't wanna miss out, what if this is no longer available?

And so that makes you want to buy. Now you sit there and you go, I'll hoard of course. Of course, I know this, I know they're trying to manipulate me but we'll come on to that in just a minute. So as you can see, we're surrounded by this all the time, right?

The guys here I've come across from the states to the UK to film this particular one. And I bet they booked their hotel room with something like And, they smother their website with these kinds of scarcity thing. This room's almost sold out, there's an exclusive deal that's gonna expire at any minute.

All of these things encouraged us to act, but actually they're bad for business. But most of the conversations you read online about this kind of manipulation, these dark patterns, position it in this way, that it's unethical or irresponsible to use these dark patterns, okay? And I only take issue with this approach, not that it's inaccurate, it's absolutely true.

I do believe that it's unethical and irresponsible to use dark patterns. But my problem with making the argument in that way is that, a, it puts peoples' backs up. So you might be working in a company, right, or you might have a client, and your client, or your stakeholders might suggest some of these techniques.

If you turn around to them and say they're unethical, what you're basically saying to them is you're an unethical person, right? And nobody wants to be told that. So you're just gonna put their backs up and annoy them. On top of which ethics is very much open to interpretation, okay?

So if you are a marketing manager, you're under enormous pressure to increase conversion rate. You can justify anything in your head. So, if we go back to this screen for a moment and look at this design. I could justify this to myself ethically, after all I'm giving them a choice.

They don't have to have the insurance, it's right there in black and white.

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