How you are fooled online by “Dark UX”

What is Dark UX – Mislead Ethically

As online businesses and market gets competitive so does the war to acquire new users, even if that means at the cost of fooling or misleading users ‘ethically’.

Although there technically can’t be such a thing as ‘mislead ethically’, its a collective behavioural pattern businesses choose to adopt slyly to fool users online. Anything thats misleading has an unethical intent behind it. It’s a lot like how lawyers find loop holes in the system and get their way out same way product designers have found a loop hole called “Dark Ux” to get their way!

Power of Dark Side – Users believe What They See

Dark UX are subtle hints used in websites and apps to make a user perform an action which he might otherwise not choose to consciously do if presented with a clear picture of what is going on. Its a way to influence or trick users to get a desired product outcome in an undesired situation.

When we are online most of times we skim through information eg – terms and conditions of any app or website, we assume that whatever must be written would be under of purview of being reasonable.

Hence, if a company exploits a crucial point in a user journey,  and makes it look like something you would expect to see on a page contextually in a normal course of journey, then, its easier to trick the user and make him believe like he is doing the right thing while in reality it could be something else. Alot like a friend who is fake but you do not realise he is fake!

Example of Dark UX Pattern – How premium companies fool you to upgrade by using Dark UX Design Pattern

This video review of a medical insurance website is a great example of  how to spot “Dark UX Pattern” and be an aware netizen. (you can skip the read and watch the video directly 🙂 )

On a daily basis we do some or the other financial transaction online and skim through data assuming its true eg t&c in apps and website. Paying a premium is also a similar activity but done once a year. Most of users assume they will login to the website online and simply renew the amount pending from their account.

Use Case: As a user i am trying to pay my medical insurance renewal premium online. My insurance policy is for 5 Lac and My premium amount every year i pay is around Rs 6000, and this year i was upgraded to 10 Lac, i am not aware but good for me and then the catch is with that upgrade my premium amount also increases, and if i am not alert i would have probably paid for it as well assuming im doing right!



However issue happens when the businesses take this as an opportunity to over sell you.

Notice the Red Flags:

  1. The congrats! section looks like a part of the main information. Ideally a attention seeking pop up asking for my explicit permission would be better as oppose to a sneaky congrats and a
  2. Any information that a user has not explicitly indicated his intention about must not be assumed as a positive indication. Here for example by default my premium amount was set to the upgraded amount. That is plain bad practise.
  3. Having a separate UPGRADE button and then disclosing options makes more sense where you have taken explicit consent from user about his intention.

Disclaimer: The video is created only for educational purpose.

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