Dragging Dark Patterns into the Light

Recognizing and Mitigating the Pervasive Risk of Manipulative Interface Design for Clients in the Digital World

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The printed word in a periodical may never be as visually appealing or engrossing as the online and mobile interfaces that have become the increasingly predominant way most of us interact with the larger world. But, even through this compromised medium of ink and glossy paper, you can likely feel the above statements’ subtle yet intentional manipulation achieved by presenting heavily-weighted options via deliberate phrasing, pre-selected answers and convoluted constructs that strategically—and psychologically—constrict your range of responsive choices to result in a designed choice architecture.1 These types of purposeful manipulations and subversions, when appearing in the user experience (UX) design of a digital interface, have become known as Dark Patterns. Clients may be deploying these dubious design elements on their websites, apps and/or social media platforms without appreciating the growing risk of doing so. This article addresses the issue, provides an update on various applicable laws, and offers some practical tips for managing client risk while still satisfying client objectives.


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