Dark Patterns: An Unethical Truth

Moulik Jain, Co-Founder, 3 Mind Digital A serial entrepreneur, Moulik completed his BE - Computer Science degree from the Maharashtra Institute of Technology, and has incepted two companies -3 Mind Digital and Design Pitch Deck.

How many times have you come across those annoying ‘I Accept’ popups every time you browse the net and wondered, why can’t I just read this article in peace? But simultaneously, have you realized that 95 percent of the time, you select the ‘I Accept’ or ‘I Agree’ option on those popups rather than the ‘No, Thanks’ option right beside it? Crazy isn’t it? Well, not really.

If you notice, the ‘I Agree’ option is always the coloured or the highlighted option, which grabs the attention of a user. This psychologically tricks the user into clicking that option rather than the ‘I Disagree’ option, which is often dull and colorless and as a result, doesn’t intrigue the user. This is an example of ‘Dark Pattern’.

So, what are Dark Patterns?
The term was first coined by London based UX designer Harry Brignull when he defined it as, ‘a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things, such as buying insurance with their purchase or signing-up for recurring bills’. Brignull wenton to explain that users on the web tend to skim read content on webpages and make various assumptions, essentially turning a blind eye to the ‘fine print’ of the content on the page.

How we’ve Tackled It
Being a UI/UX agency for two and a half years, we at 3 Minds Digital have understood that the User Interface (UI) and the User Experience(UX) of a website is all about selling the product and making it standout in the eye of the user. In the numerous projects we have worked on for clientele across the globe, we have carefully understood their requirements while keeping up with the latest trends simultaneously. While some of these trends may be beneficial, it has proven to be crucial to steer clear of certain trends that may not necessarily benefit the user. Case in point Dark Patterns.

Now that we’ve established what Dark Patterns are all about, let’s look at how we have tackled certain types.
1.Hidden Costs: Have you ever noticed how
prices of a product or services shootup when you enter the checkout pages of websites like or Well, the answer to this is hidden costs. These are costs that are added to the final cost in the form of internet charges or delivery charges, depending on the website.

2.Misdirection: As the name suggests, in this pattern, the user’s attention is misdirected to a particular place on a webpage while the page may pre check certain undesired options that users may turn a blind eye to. Leaving enough whitespace as well as gutter space on the webpage is somewhat of a necessity to enable user clarity.

3.Privacy Zuckering: Remember when Facebook and Google got into trouble? Using dark patterns around their privacy policies was one of the main reasons why Mark Zuckerberg was in court, almost found sweating in front of the entire jury and those present at that moment. In this scenario, users were forced to add more of their personal information than what was essentially required.

Leaving enough whitespace as well as gutter space on the webpage is somewhat of a necessity to enable user clarity

4.Price Comparison Prevention: In this pattern, the retailer makes it hard for the user to compare prices of products with another product, hindering them from making an informed decision. An example for this is LinkedIn, where they advertise their premium plans and even promote a free trial, but never reveal the price in the beginning. It is imperative to grant users complete access to information, especially when it comes to financial matters.

5.Roach Motel: This is a pattern that is fairly common and frankly very relatable due to the fact that it is easy to get into, but very difficult to come out of. It is a common practice on various job portals where you may subscribe to their services of finding you a job, but there’s no easy way to unsubscribe from their services. This form of dark pattern is occasionally a tricky one to work around. Although the option to ‘delete’ your particular account may be visible in plain sight, users tend to select the ‘deactivate’ account option, which can be reactivated at any time. This is the reason why users continue to receive notifications on their accounts.

While it is important for UX designers to create a web experience that is aesthetically pleasing and enhance usability, it is also our responsibility as a UI/UX consultancy to promote transparency. But, there are certain occasions where dark patterns need to be used in order to boost sales, generating leads, increase app downloads or even gain a bigger subscriber base for clients. As a target driven agency, we follow the best UX practices that are prevalent around the industry, which enables us to achieve our client’s goals and requirements.