Dark Patterns

Jun 27, 2023

Dark patterns are design tactics used in websites that manipulate users into doing something they didn’t intend to do.

A list of dark patterns I’ve come across.

Arduous cancellation. You can subscribe to the NYTimes online easily, but you can only unsubscribe by mail. Planet Fitness quickly signs up members in-person or online but requires members to unsubscribe by mail a week (or month) ahead of time.

Unsuspected cancellation fees. Adobe lures customers in with a 7-day free trial that lists a monthly subscription price afterward. But the plan is an annual plan, billed monthly. Cancellation fees are 50% of the remaining contractual obligation (6 months if you cancel immediately).

Bait and switch. Displaying one price on a landing or search page and then adding substantial additional fees. Airbnb does this with cleaning and service fees, which can almost double the cost.

Superfluous notifications. Notifications that aren’t from application usage or user action. Recommendations, marketing copy, or even phantom notifications.

Guilt-trip cancellation. Any cancellation screen or email that guilt-trips the user into resubscribing. For example, “Who is getting fired?”.