What Dark UX is and Why You Should Avoid It

For anyone unfamiliar, User Experience (UX) is a term referring to the interaction that a user has with a website, application or product. The goal of UX design is to create an easy, efficient and smooth experience for the user. A happy user is a returning user and customer retention has never been more critical.


But there is also a ‘dark side’ of UX design. There is a practice of creating a pattern or practice that will cause a deceitful effect intended to trick the user into doing something they don't want to do, or not even tell the user that they are engaged in an action. UX is supposed to be about people, and the users, and about creating delight in exchange for loyalty. That is the exact opposite of dark UX.


The most famous example of a dark UX pattern was used by LinkedIn and resulted in them being fined $13 million dollars as part of a class action lawsuit in 2015. As part of the LinkedIn sign-up process they asked users to give them access to their email account, on the premise that it would improve your career network. The malice came into play as they really wanted the access to be able to secretly send invitation emails to everyone on your contact list, falsely claiming to be sent by a user rather than by LinkedIn.


These are some common types of dark UX patterns so you can be sure you are not inadvertently creating a bad user experience or developing a reputation for using deceptive lead generating or handling processes.


Trick Questions

While filling in a form a user responds to a question that tricks them into giving an answer they didn't intend. When looked at quickly the question may appear to ask one thing, but when read carefully it asks something else.


Sneak into Basket

A user attempts to purchase something, but somewhere in the purchasing journey the site sneaks an additional item into their basket, often through the use of an opt-out radio button or checkbox on a prior page.


Privacy Zuckering

Users are tricked into publicly sharing more information about themselves than they really intended to. Named for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.


Price Comparison Prevention

The retailer makes it hard to compare the price of an item with another, so a user has a harder time making an informed decision. In example, there are a lot of price-comparison applications that have been created. However, most of them require a user to scan a barcode of the product using the application. In order to avoid losing a sale to a competitor, many retailers have their own bar codes for most products and stick THEIR barcode over the manufacturer’s thus preventing the price-comparison applications from identifying the product.


Hidden Costs

A user arrives at the last step of a checkout process, only to discover some unexpected charges have appeared, e.g. delivery fees or taxes.



The act of guilting the user into opting into something. The option to decline is worded in such a way as to literally shame the user into compliance.


Disguised Ads

Adverts that are disguised as other kinds of content or navigation, in order to get a user to click on them.


Earlier in the month, I wrote a blog that mentioned how consumers noticed and objected to the way businesses were using technology to grow business over using it to provide better service. This leeriness came about in the 60s and 70s as retail began adopting technology. Dark UX is that fear come to life 50 years later.


How a dealership uses their website and the tools they choose to offer for customers need to stay focused on those needs. If a widget is being used simply as a lead generation tool and not giving the customer anything in return, then the dealership might as well not have it at all. The dissatisfaction of that experience is not going to fall onto the widget at the end of the day it always falls on the dealer. The tool won’t lose a customer for life.


The dealership who uses “tricks” to lure in customers rather than providing the information that they were looking for or creating customer journey’s filled with friction and information collection without fulfilling promises made will only end with an upset customer who will probably end up choosing a different dealership.


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