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Dark patterns in B2B. Where do you stand?

October 11 2013 9:44 AM

We've been enjoying Harry Brignull's excellent slideshare on Dark Patterns in web design.

What is a dark pattern?

It's a UI design technique aimed at maximizing conversion by some degree of user deception. Depending on where you stand on the matter, it uses valid or unacceptable design techniques.

It's this grey line that is fascinating. I'd be interested in finding out what B2B Marketers, our main audience, think is acceptable practice.

To some – and many big brands are using these techniques – they are valid ways to optimise site design to increase conversion rates. After all, that's what it's all about isn't it?  Some may even call them “best practice”.

To others, it's trickery to hoodwink users into doing things that they didn't mean to. Black hat techniques for UI design.

I'm firmly in this latter camp. Having experienced dark patterns fairly frequently as a user – they are commonly employed after all – they always leave a bad taste in your mouth about the brand concerned. Is that how we want users to feel?

I think there are better ways to encourage conversion that are far more sustainable for your brand and that help build customer relationships (these of course generally take longer - going over to the dark side is always an easier, short-termist fix).

But I bet some of you, under pressure to improve those metrics, are tempted to find out more about them? Go on, you know you want to take a look...

Harry's site lists the dark patterns.

Is this a useful toolbox for boosting conversion? 
Or something all users should be aware of?

Where do you stand?

4 Comments

October 14 2013 3:41 PM

This dilemma exists in all areas of marketing. The purist will say that he aims to ‘satisfy customer needs’; the pragmatist will say that he aims to persuade the customer whenever he can that needs something more. And you know what? The answer is that it’s a combination of the two. To keep our clients happy, we have to push ‘dark grey’ practices as much as we think the brand will take it. Everyone knows what Ryanair are like and I doubt a little sharp practice on their website will destroy their brand overnight. But if your brand has less tolerance for this kind of thing, you need to be more careful. But it’s always a balance, and the smart guys get the balance right. Thanks for bringing this to our attention - fascinating stuff.

's avatar

October 14 2013 3:52 PM

This dilemma exists in all areas of marketing. The purist will say that he aims to ‘satisfy customer needs’; the pragmatist will say that he aims to persuade the customer whenever he can that needs something more. And you know what? The answer is that it’s a combination of the two. To keep our clients happy, we have to push ‘dark grey’ practices as much as we think the brand will take it. Everyone knows what Ryanair are like and I doubt a little sharp practice on their website will destroy their brand overnight. But if your brand has less tolerance for this kind of thing, you need to be more careful. But it’s always a balance, and the smart guys get the balance right. Thanks for bringing this to our attention - fascinating stuff.

David

October 15 2013 1:03 PM

very good! if I’m tempted does that make me evil?

Mike Kostrey

September 30 2022 6:19 PM

We stand that web design should follow the same ethics you live by in the rest of your life. Deceiving and blatantly monetizing your customers signals bad intentions and can ultimately cripple your credibility and success. In this article you can find more information about dark patterns in design and some case studies https://www.jtechcommunications.com/blog/blog-detail-13 .

October 21 2024 2:26 PM

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