Dark Patterns are designed to trick you (and they’re all over the Web)

With six years of data, Brignull has broken dark patterns down into 14 categories. There are hidden costs users don’t see until the end. There’s misdirection, where sites attract user attention to a specific section to distract them from another. Other categories include sites that prevent price comparison or have tricky or misleading opt-in questions. One type, Privacy Zuckering, refers to confusing interfaces tricking users into sharing more information than they want to. (It’s named after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, of course.) Though perhaps the worst class of dark pattern is forced continuity, the common practice of collecting credit card details for a free trial and then automatically billing users for a paid service without an adequate reminder.

But while hackers and even SEO firms are often distinguished as “white hat” or “black hat,” intent isn’t always as clear when it comes to dark patterns. Laura Klein, Principal at Users Know and author of UX for Lean Startups, is quick to point out that sometimes it’s just a really, really poor design choice. “To me, dark patterns are very effective in their goal, which is to trick the user into doing something that they would not otherwise do,” she said. Shady patterns, on the other hand, simply push the company’s agenda over the user’s desires without being explicitly deceptive.