Dark Patterns: why do companies pursue strategies that make their customers regret doing business?

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/07/28/dark-patterns-why-do-companie.html


The “dark pattern” I appreciate the very least is from a company that combines a pre-checked series of opt-ins at the bottom of a registration or transaction screen with knit-picking over phone number format or similar b.s. at the top of the screen, and you have to scroll down EVERY FUCKING TIME to uncheck the opt-in boxes.

Coming in a close second is a huge NEXT button and a miniscule “no thanks” ferreted away somewhere or of a color that barely contrasts with the background.


Weird. I clicked “Reply” and now somehow have a signed a contract with Boingboing to inspect my genitals. It’s not that I mind, you understand, but the $49.95 on my credit card every month for the inspection seems a bit steep.


I hear that they are soon going to have an online course in the Boingboing Store for $49.94 (99% OFF!) that will enable you to write scripts that will empower you to inspect your own genitals.

Makers, FTW…


Would you please read a lot more posts to catapult you into Regular status? I think I speak for most people here on this forum when I say we’d like to see a lot more of you. :imp:


At least with a dark pattern, someone at the company has decided to do it on purpose.

A trend I’ve been noticing is having mandatory on-line tasks for the customer – registering a warranty, arranging delivery – but the web site looks and acts like it was only tested on one machine, probably the same machine used for the internal demo.

A major homewares chain told me if I wanted to register the warranty on my new washer & dryer, I’d have to use IE, because that was the only browser their fake pop-up link worked on. At home I run Linux. At work it’s Windows, but we can only use Chrome for external sites. Their customer service told me they couldn’t take registration over the phone – I had to enter the data. The solution was to use Chrome on my phone to access the site, but only if I rotated the screen before navigating to the site.

And if I don’t comply? No warranty. All the liability on me.

There has to be a cost, besides pissed-off customers, to doing business in what amounts to a dishonest way.


Can’t. I’m irregular, on account of one leg being longer than the other.


Poo. Both of my legs are longer than the other.


Oh man 2 days ago in my wonderful online job search fun. I was filling out an application and I swear the crappy UI was some sort of pre-screen to weed out people who were not serious about the job. The edit field link was only on the pencil icon not the word and icon. When you finished it the tiny pop up window would refresh and jump back to the top of the page so you had to scroll down again to check your work and start on the next section or even get to the next page button when you were done. That was something worth taking the designer out behind the shed for.


I’ve noticed major bugs – not just poor design decisions (though that’s some of it), but bugs – when trying to shop on-line at the site of some major bricks-and-mortar chains. Like when Sears had the description of some lawn chair covers for all the items in their microwave ovens section. Or when clicking Details or Add to Cart (can’t remember) on the Bay mobile web site took you to the home page of the desktop web site. Or Movietickets.com, which if you select the theatre first and then choose to buy tickets, knows that the theatre is in Canada, knows that the ticket price is in Canadian dollars, but won’t let you actually buy tickets unless your credit card address has a US zip code.

But if you choose the movie from the Canadian site and then the theatre, it will work. Except the site is in US English, and if you change it to Canadian English, you get an ASP error. But then if you hit the back button, the site will display correctly in Canadian English (normally I wouldn’t care, but since their other localisations are FUBAR…).

And my favourite is that whenever I report any of this stuff, they act like it’s an idiot customer issue. Hellloooooo, your site let me do this and failed to let me give you money.


Thought that was due to lack of fiber in your diet?


Does yarn count?


Only if it’s organic yarn from the fields of Peru.


Had a dark pattern thing only today. Got asked if I wanted to update my Java, and the damned updater had a pre-checked box asking if I wanted to change my preferred search engine to Yahoo. NO, I damn well don’t! Why would you even ask!?

And this is an improvement: previous iterations either hid the checkbox or didn’t have it at all, I don’t know which. Wasted hours of time trying to figure out why my search engine kept changing.


In the case of things like warranty registration or rebate submission; I wouldn’t necessarily be so sure that utter suckitude is unplanned: just as call centers are deliberately operated to be as miserable as possible(for the callers as well as the employees) because they are designed to keep customers at bay at minimal cost, if there is something you are entitled to but the company would rather not have you register for, wouldn’t it be perfectly sensible to do the absolute bare minimum to be able to claim that it can be done; and then count each failure as a win?

Failures are probably honest if, say, they interfere with a company successfully closing a sale; but if it’s an extra PITA to register for a warranty? Fewer warranty claims!


If this is a Windows system(and the option “uninstall Java” isn’t an option), the following (no doubt…purely accidentally…not well emphasized) configuration change should make your life incrementally more bearable:

Start -> Control Panel -> View By(choose either ‘small icons’ or ‘large icons’ -> Java

When the Java control panel applet opens, choose the “advanced” tab, scroll down to the very bottom and check “Suppress sponsor offers when installing or updating Java”.

I haven’t found this to be 100% reliable in field trials on large numbers (~500) of machines(I’m sure Larry’s crack engineers are working on isolating the cause); but it does seem to work sometimes.

If you prefer to do it the hands-on way(or need a method for taming large numbers of machines) go to HKCU\Software\JavaSoft\DeploymentProperties and create a new string within that key that has the name 'install.disable.sponsor.offers" and the value “true”(both without the quotation marks, obviously).

Then pronounce the thricefold execration upon Larry Ellison and all his works.


holy crap all these years of carefully watching java install this/change that options that get checked… THANKS!


Sadly, it’s not even necessarily deliberately deliberate. I think that’s a big part of what the article’s about.

The absolute worst call center will deny more valid insurance claims than one better structured to efficiently settle claims, so the insurance company with the least efficient and effective call center will be more financially successful. They don’t have to try to be ineffective, since they’ll be rewarded for doing it regardless of whether it’s by accident, malice or sheer incompetence.

“Oh, we accidentally did something stupid and anti-human and profits went up? Good job, give all the senior VPs a raise!”


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