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A
dark pattern is a user interface carefully crafted to trick users
into doing things they might not otherwise do, such as buying
insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills.
Usually, when we think about “bad design”, we think of the
developer being sloppy or lazy – but without ill intent. Dark
patterns, on the other hand, are not mistakes. They’re carefully
conspired with a solid understanding of human psychology, and they do
not have user’s interests in mind.

Marketing
emails are prime examples of dark patterns. You probably have
witnessed this before. After an individual registers to access a web
service, they’re asked whether they want to receive newsletters or
promotional emails from them. This particular approach is fairly
standard but it is not overly effective because users have the option
at their hands whether they want to opt in or not. Chances are
they’ll be in a hurry and bulk of users wouldn’t even notice this
text. Hence, some websites use mandatory radio buttons with either
available option (Yes/No) preselected. This way the user cannot skip
or proceed to the next page without making an explicit choice. This
in itself is still above-board. But, if we think back to our
anti-usability principles, we can see how not diverting user’s
attention to this choice can be used to trick them into choosing
something they don’t actually want to in the first place.

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There
are so many manners which firms can utilize to their advantage to
extract explicit information from the consumers accessing their
services online. Below we discuss some tactics many firms use to
perplex users and extract their explicit information they probably
didn’t want to share in the first place:

Forced
continuity:
When an individual applies for a
free
trial with a web service and it comes to an end after some time
period, their credit card starts silently charging them for
continuing to access that web service without notifying them with
any warning. Thus, they are not given an easy way to cancel the
automatic renewal. This dark pattern is undoubtedly not visible to
the user accessing a web service. For instance, suppose you buy a
book or a mobile cover or any other accessory through an online
retailer such as Amazon.in®
or Flipkart.com®.
When you buy that product, more often than not we come across an
option below the “buy” or “add to cart” button, which
suggests the user that people who bought this product also bought
all this together with it. Or for another instance, how about a
membership at a premium gym where you get lofty discounts but for
that, you may have to pay the whole year’s membership fee just to
grasp such offer. Or maybe you’ll access a web service online and
it offers you only 2-3 trials beyond which you have to pay to get
further access, for example, Internet Download Manager®.
All these instances are the prime illustrations of the fact that
forced continuity exists in about every other web service which
users hardly pay attention to! Now, the question most of us have on
our minds is whether forced continuity is a bad thing? Hence, we
need to be clear about the disparity between “optional
continuity”, “forced continuity” and “hidden continuity”.

Optional
continuity is self–explanatory. Forced continuity is a very
frequent marketing practice. For a merchant, there is nothing wrong
with this dark pattern and its use itself. There are some users who
will let that monthly–subscription fee charge run for YEARS and
the cost to fulfil? Zero. Now that’s a pretty pleasing business
model. From a business point of view, the “Reservation rewards”
deal is splendid! It can be tagged on to the post-sale to anything.
Offering a web service at low cost, then developing a relationship
with the consumers and have them “sell themselves” on the
upgrades. The vacuum of transparency is the real misdemeanour. It’s
wrong when people are obligated to continuing against their will.
Hence, most of the users are scared into continuing with a web
service to not get trapped into forced continuity. And thus it’s
no wonder why some crooked marketers feel the need to hide it and
expedient to that.

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