Dark pattern

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A dark pattern is "a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things, such as buying insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills."[1][2][3] The neologism dark pattern was coined by Harry Brignull in August 2010 with the registration of darkpatterns.org, a "pattern library with the specific goal of naming and shaming deceptive user interfaces."[4][5]



Bait-and-switch patterns advertise a free (or greatly reduced) product or service which is wholly unavailable or stocked in small quantities. After it is apparent the product is no longer available, they are exposed to other priced products similar to the one advertised.[6][7]

Forced disclosure[edit]

A forced disclosure pattern offer low-cost or free services, but require that the user divulge sensitive information such as credit card information, personal addresses, and phone numbers. Some companies will then sell this information to advertisers.[6][7]

Roach motel[edit]

A roach motel or a trammel net[8] is a situation that is easy or straightforward to get into, but difficult to get out of. Examples include businesses that require subscribers to print and mail their opt-out or cancellation request.[6][7]

Forced Continuity[edit]

When your free trial with a service comes to an end and your credit card silently starts getting charged without any warning. In some cases this is made even worse by making it difficult to cancel the membership.


This is common in software installers, where a button will be presented in the fashion of a typical continuation button. It is common that one has to accept the program's terms of service, so a dark pattern would show a prominent "I accept these terms" button on a page where the user is asked to accept the terms of a program unrelated to the program they are trying to install. Since the user will typically accept the terms by force of habit, the unrelated program can subsequently be installed. The installer's authors do this because they are paid by the authors of the unrelated program for each install that they procure. The alternative route in the installer, allowing the user to skip installing the unrelated program, is much less prominently displayed.

This pattern is also used by some websites, where the user is shown a page where information is asked that is not required. For example, one would fill out a username and password on one page, and after clicking the "next" button the user is asked for their email address with another "next" button as the only option. It is not apparent that the step can be skipped. When simply pressing "next" without entering their personal information, however, the website will just continue. In some cases, a method to skip the step is visible but not shown as a button (instead, usually, as a small and greyed-out link) so that it does not stand out to the user. Other examples that often use this pattern are inviting friends by entering your email address, uploading a profile picture, or selecting interests.


  1. ^ Campbell-Dollaghan, Kelsey (21 Dec 2016). "The Year Dark Patterns Won". CO.DESIGN. Retrieved 29 May 2017. 
  2. ^ Singer, Natasha (14 May 2016). "When Websites Won't Take No For An Answer". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 May 2017. 
  3. ^ Nield, David (4 April 2017). "Dark Patterns: The Ways Websites Trick Us Into Giving Up Our Privacy". Gizmodo. Retrieved 30 May 2017. 
  4. ^ Brignull, Harry (1 Nov 2011). "Dark Patterns: Deception vs. Honesty in UI Design". A List Apart. Retrieved 29 May 2017. 
  5. ^ Grauer, Yael (28 July 2016). "Dark Patterns Are Designed to Trick You, and They're All Over the Web". Ars Technica. Retrieved 29 May 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c Snyder, Jesse (10 Sep 2012). "Dark Patterns in UI and Website Design". evatotuts+. Retrieved 29 May 2017. 
  7. ^ a b c Brignull, Harry. "Types of Dark Patterns". Dark Patterns. Retrieved 29 May 2017. 
  8. ^ Brignull, Harry (29 August 2013). "Dark patterns: Inside the interfaces designed to trick you". The Verge. Retrieved 29 May 2017.