Top brands named and shamed for web design tricks


Top brands have been accused of using tricks to deceive web users as part of a new campaign set up by a web design consultant. Harry Brignull has set up the website Dark Patterns to expose the secrets that go behind website design and the use of intentionally misdirected elements to ‘force’ users to click on something they usually won’t.

Facebook, Yahoo, Ryanair and Comet are some of the big brands that are alleged to employ crafty tricks that snare an unsuspecting user into signing up for a membership, buying insurance they don’t need, or giving up personal information. Tactics include trick questions, hidden charges and ‘sneaking’ products into web shopping baskets, said Brignull.



"They are the digital equivalent of a supermarket manager putting something in your trolley when you are not looking," he said. "They are taking all the principles of good design and inverting them for nefarious purposes. There are quite a number of big brands who are using dark patterns like dirty tricks."

The site is Brignull’s attempt to help educate web-users on common tricks employed used to lure unsuspecting customers. The companies are not being accused of anything illegal but Brignull wanted to expose the cunning methods from an ‘ethical point of view’.

The practices rely on the fact that web shoppers often ‘scan read’ sites and may miss added items or conditions.

Others may be in a rush or are simply internet novices, Brignull said. "These things rely on an element of human error," he added. "They are targeting people who are perhaps less savvy on the web. Aggressive business practices have been around since business has and this is the online version of it."

Some of the top web tricks mentioned on dark paterns are listed below:

‘Disguised Ads’: Predominantly used in download sites, where the word “Download” is slathered across ads, but no mention of the actual download file is given.

‘Sneak into Basket’ Where insurance is clandestinely thrown in before you can view your finalized shopping cart.

‘Roach Motel’: an impossible-to-unsubscribe scheme clouded by design smoke and mirrors.

‘Pravacy Zuckering’: The act of creating deliberately confusing jargon and user-interfaces which trick your users into sharing more info about themselves than they really want to

‘Forced Information Disclosure’: In return for a free or low-cost action, the site requires the user to disclose extensive personal information – unnecessary to the transaction in-hand.

‘Silent Credit Card Roll Over’: The user signs up for a free trial on a website, and in doing so they are required to enter their credit card details. When the trial comes to an end, they automatically start getting billed for the paid service. The user is not given an adequate reminder, nor are they given an easy and rapid way of cancelling the automatic renewal.

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