UX designer launches Dark Patterns Awards

You might not have heard the term 'Dark Patterns', but you've probably seen them in action: they're the manipulative interfaces that trick users into doing things. For example, social networks that deliberately make it difficult to keep things private, or airlines that automatically put insurance in your basket without telling you.

In a bid to embarass companies into changing their ways, Clearleft UX designer and cognitive scientist Harry Brignull is launching the Dark Patterns Annual Awards to name and shame the worst offenders. He's appealing for submissions that exemplify the practice, and is even considering sending trophies to the winners.

Brignull tells us people are tired of being hoodwinked: "I thought up the name 'dark patterns' back in 2010, and I gave a talk about it at the first UX Brighton conference. Right from the outset, it had a lot of community interest.

"Getting caught out by a dark pattern - and then realising it - is a really antagonising experience. Maybe you've been caught out by a ticket sales website that's sold you insurance with your purchase when you're almost certain you ticked the opt out. Or maybe you've bought something, only to find you've signed up for a monthly subscription without realising it. Then, when you look back at the website, you realise you were caught out by some tricky wording or layout.

"Who's to blame? In the past, I think people tended to blame themselves. The whole point of Dark Patterns is to clearly identify these practices as unethical and to get people to understand that it's not their fault - that many websites carry out very carefully crafted tricks to get you to do things - and that it's up to us to shame them into stopping these practices.

"The idea of the award is to create an annual focus of attention for the public, the media and the offending companies."

Clearleft founder Andy Budd told us he supports the plan: "Companies that use deceptive practices to trick customers into doing something against their will harms users and gives the design industry a bad name. So I think it's great that Harry is calling out companies that engage in anti-user behaviour."

Harry Brignull wrote this article about Dark Patterns on A List Apart, and there are some good examples over here.

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