Volume 16(2), 2020-08, 170—199

Dark design patterns: An end-user perspective

Maximilian Maier
Department of Informatics
Umeå University
Sweden

Rikard Harr
Department of Informatics
Umeå University
Sweden

The number of websites and mobile applications available is growing continually, as are the persuasive approaches to influence human behavior and decision making. Although designing for persuasion offers several potential benefits, recent developments expose various deceptive designs, that is, dark patterns, that utilize psychological factors to nudge people toward, from someone else’s perspective, desired directions. This paper contributes to an increased awareness of the phenomenon of dark patterns through our exploring how users perceive and experience these patterns. Hence, we chose a qualitative research approach, with focus groups and interviews, for our exploration. Our analysis shows that participants were moderately aware of these deceptive techniques, several of which were perceived as sneaky and dishonest. Respondents further expressed a resigned attitude toward such techniques and primarily blamed businesses for their occurrence. Users considered their dependency on services employing these practices, thus making it difficult to avoid fully dark patterns.

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