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Unmasking Deceptive UX Design: Dark Patterns to Beware Of

Emiliya Georgieva

03 Nov

8 mins read

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Unmasking Deceptive UX Design: Dark Patterns to Beware Of

Unmasking Deceptive UX Design: Dark Patterns to Beware Of

In the ever-evolving world of technology, user experience (UX) design plays a pivotal role in shaping our digital interactions. UX designers strive to create seamless and user-friendly interfaces that cater to the needs and preferences of users. However, not all UX practices are created equal. In this article, we're going to venture into the shadows to uncover the dark patterns in UX design – the villains of user experience.

1. Misleading Language: The Art of Deception

Misleading language is one of the most common dark patterns in UX design. It involves using confusing or deceptive wording to trick users into taking actions they didn't intend to. For example, labeling a "Subscribe" button as "Continue" to make users unintentionally sign up for a newsletter. The benefit? Increased sign-ups, but at the cost of user trust.

2. Hidden Costs: The Sneaky Surcharge

Hidden costs involve concealing additional charges until the user is deep into the checkout process. Think of unexpected shipping fees, taxes, or subscription charges that pop up right when you're about to hit that "Buy" button. The benefit here is that it increases the likelihood of users completing a purchase without backing out due to sticker shock.

3. Sneak into Basket: Items You Didn't Order

Have you ever added something to your online shopping cart, only to find that other items mysteriously appeared there without your consent? This dark pattern forces users to remove unwanted items, potentially leading them to make additional purchases they hadn't planned on.

4. Roach Motel: Easy In, Difficult Out

Roach Motel dark patterns make it easy for users to get into a situation (like subscribing to a service) but incredibly difficult for them to get out. This is done to minimize subscription cancellations and maximize revenue for the company.

5. Misdirection: The Art of Diversion

Misdirection is all about diverting user attention away from their original goal, often through the use of distracting pop-ups, advertisements, or other elements that steer them off course. For businesses, this can lead to increased engagement with ads or promoted content.

6. Forced Continuity: Stuck in the Subscription Trap

Forced continuity makes it challenging for users to cancel subscriptions or services. It's designed to lock users into long-term commitments, ensuring a steady stream of revenue for the company. Users can feel trapped and frustrated.

7. Privacy Zuckering: More Data Than You Bargained For

Privacy Zuckering involves tricking users into sharing more personal information than they initially intended. Companies benefit by collecting valuable user data for targeted marketing and analytics purposes.

8. Social Proof Manipulation: Fake It Till You Make It

Social proof manipulation entails faking or exaggerating social proof, such as user reviews or endorsements, to persuade users to take specific actions. This can lead to increased trust and higher conversion rates, albeit dishonestly.

9. Bait and Switch: The Illusion of Value

Bait and switch tactics attract users with enticing offers or features, only to reveal that they are not available or come with additional costs or conditions. This can increase website traffic and engagement, but it also leads to frustration.

10. Confirmshaming: The Guilt Trip

Confirmshaming uses guilt or shame to manipulate user choices. It encourages users to make choices that benefit the company's goals, such as subscribing or sharing data, by making the alternative option seem morally wrong.


As users become more tech-savvy and discerning, dark patterns in UX design are increasingly being exposed and condemned. While these tactics may offer short-term gains, they often result in long-term damage to user trust and brand reputation. Ethical UX designers prioritize transparency, honesty, and user-centric design, ensuring that users have a positive and trustworthy digital experience. By recognizing and avoiding dark patterns, we can all contribute to a brighter, more user-friendly digital landscape.

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