Definition: Dark Patterns

Dark Patterns are techniques used by websites and apps to trick their users into taking an action they wouldn’t have otherwise taken. There are many simple examples of dark patterns that you have probably experienced yourself:

  • A single purchase in fact being a subscription so you are charged monthly instead of just once
  • Tickboxes to opt-in to another form of marketing communication using confusing language (eg “untick this is you don’t want to not receive an email”)
  • Parts of the screen moving at the last moment so you click on the wrong thing
  • Close buttons so small that you click an ad when you are trying to close it

Dark Patterns can be considered the Black Hat version of UX design. As with all Black Hat plans, they prioritise short term victories over long term growth. You may be able to trick some people into doing what they don’t mean to, but those people:

  • will be annoyed by you
  • will use your website or app less
  • won’t recommend you to others

Communities and reputations are hard to build but easy to destroy. Don’t use dark patterns.

You can find out more about dark patterns here.



A blue image which gives the definition of Dark Patterns as: Tricks used by websites and apps to confuse a user into taking an action they otherwise wouldn't have. For example, the use of confusing instructions such as "To avoid opting-out of emails, untick the box."

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