"Dark patterns" - Harry Brignull at Lightning UX

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 7 February 2011

I've been blogging my notes from last week's Lightning UX evening, and this morning posted my thoughts on Cennydd Bowles' presentation "The dip". Another member of the thriving Brighton UX scene is Dr Harry Brignull, and he was also talking at the event on Tuesday.

"Dark patterns" - Harry Brignull

Harry was presenting a sub-set of the dark patterns library, with a focus really on how "Google karma" reflects the design patterns or anti-patterns that you have employed on your site.

He did a side-by-side comparison of the autosuggestions that Google provides when you start searching for two brands - CreditExpert and LoveFilm. For the latter the suggestions are all positive. For CreditExpert, the third search term Google prompts you with is "CreditExpert scam".

This, he explains, is partly attributable to the dark patterns that CreditExpert use when signing you up to their service. Their copy is incredibly deftly written to disguise the fact that you are signing up to a recurring monthly payment for the rest of your life. Harry had a great slide with "UX copywriting guidelines" on one side, and "Inverted for anti-readability" on the other.

I very much liked Harry's point that the short term gains you get from using dark patterns around sign-up and opt-in are negated by the longer term damage done to your brand online. It is one thing telling a marketing department "we shouldn't do that because it is a bit sneaky", it is quite another to be able to tell them "we shouldn't do that because it is a bit sneaky and it will impact on our brand reputation in Google".

If you've not spent some time dipping into the library of dark patterns, it is well worth visiting.

You can also listen to this 25 minute screencast on the topic, and Harry has posted up the notes from his Lightning UX talk on his excellent blog, 90 percent of everything.

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