Comprehensive tour of dark patterns at shopping websites

Originally published at: Comprehensive tour of dark patterns at shopping websites | Boing Boing


Expected tartans…found deceptive practices. :woman_shrugging:t4:


I have a separate spam Gmail account specifically to get past these - it’s riddled with unrequested junk mail, porn, and malware attempts because I used it as a decoy for unscrupulous merchant sites.


More recently, Calo has argued that market manipulation is exacerbated by digital marketplaces since they posses capabilities that increase the chance of user harm culminating in financial loss, loss of privacy, and the ability to make independent decisions

It looks like something got lost in the copy edit. It’s hard to see how “the ability to make independent decisions” is an example of “user harm”. That should be more like “the loss of the ability to make independent decisions”.


It easily parses as one phrase “loss of privacy and the ability to make independent decisions]”. English is slippery.


Mobile gaming also makes heavy use of dark patterns, and it deserves more scrutiny than it is getting for it. The recent crackdown on “loot boxes” (essentially gambling targeted at kids) is a good start, but the whole industry is very cynical.

I’ve been in the meetings where dark patterns like these are put into the design (as an engineer, not my call). It happens basically two ways:

  1. It evolves out of something that was showing signs of improving sales, so it gets pushed a little further. Like, running sales works, so we do more them. Time-limited sales work even better. Then it turns out the sale doesn’t have to be “real”, just the time limit. At some point there an ethical line is crossed, but the people crossing it can’t see the forest for the trees.

  2. The successful strategy is lifted straight out of a competitor’s product. This is immensely common in games. We simply do everything that all the big winners in the space are doing, verbatim, because it seems to work for them.

I make no excuses for all this, but will say that the people making decisions like this are trying to feed their families and doing a job within a big company to try and keep their employment to the best of their ability. They aren’t bad people, but they end up doing effectively bad things.

This is why government regulation is necessary. Left to their own devices, these good people, whom I would happily entrust to care for my children, end up building seedy products that are pretty evil.

There are no bad people, only bad incentives.


@JohnEightThirty just to make it screamingly clear, seeing as the reply above merely repeated the same words that caused your concern.

English IS slippery, but parsing is fun! :wink:


I work for an arts non-profit. I’d say about a third of our staff (well, more, since most of the operations people are temporarily laid off) spend their days on analytics and engagement strategies. I don’t know if there’s any hard and fast border between marketing in general and “dark patterns” outside of efficaciousness.


@beschizza this is the playbook for the @boingboingshop right?


This biggest dark pattern, “The Rebate”. We are going to overcharge you by this much, then by our lovely graciousness, we will return the money we over charged you at some later date, while we earn interest off it. Aint THAT SPECIAL??!

and now this

Just going to leave this here

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As a dude with severe ADHD I realized about 5 years ago that advertizing is nothing more than lots of strangers pirating my attention.

I have a mental disorder that makes my attention one of my scarcest and most precious resource.

If you ask me, there’s no such thing as ethical advertizing. If I want to buy something, I can go and look for it. If I have a problem, it is very easy to type it into a search and find what I need to buy to fix the problem. More often than not I actually can find the solution without needing to buy anything.

As it stands I tolerate only as much advertizing as I can’t absolutely get rid of. I can’t block out billboards, but I can block most intrusive advertizing, especially on my phone and on the web.

Ever since I decided to completely block as much advertizing as possible, I’ve noticed my mental health improving immensely, and I am a lot better at thinking. I’m happier. I’m more satisfied with life.

Don’t tell me I’m missing out. I’m not. I am not hurting for flashing lights, and loud autoplaying video, or the chance to meet hot sluts in my area.


I can’t imagine anyone saying that. I’d be perfectly fine in a world with zero advertising. I think most of us work to minimize it in our lives. Nobody likes it; at least nobody that I know.


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