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Why is this called "dark patterns"? It seems that it can be more accurately described by calling it deliberately misleading or deceptive design. Clicking the link I had no idea what it meant. Terminology like this makes sense when the concept can't already be described using two words.

As for the content of the article, it has always seemed anti-user to me for a website to prompt for a subscription 30 seconds into browsing a page. I wonder if anyone has actually investigated the effect it has on traffic properly, because I always go back whenever I get prompted to subscribe.

If someone had told me in 2005 that in the future, intrusive popups would work its way back into the domains of acceptable design to the point where people will gladly have them on their personal blogs I would have laughed in disbelief. Together with "You have an outdated browser" ("Please view this in Netscape 4.0"), "Rotate your device" ("Best viewed in 800x600") this is all a terrible setback in acceptable practices.

Add to that some more recent design patterns like a "share on <social media>" button taking up 1/5 of the screen estate following you through the page only for the benefit of the publisher and the handful of users that also actively use twitter, weird overloading of scrolling behavior, "Continue reading" buttons... It's an awful mess and especially for websites that ideally would just present plain written text with some pictures it seems like designers are over-engineering their solutions for goals that in no way aligned with those of the users.

Why is this called "dark patterns"?

It is - for reasons that are a conversation unto themselves - uncouth to suggest a business is acting in bad faith without airtight evidence of malice. So the language gets softened.

It's doubly crazy when talking about the press. OP is picking a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. For all the rah rah "speaking truth to power" of the press, if you question the press you have to go hat-in-hand.

I don't think that is a valid concern in this case. From what I understand, "dark patterns" is hardly an euphemism, and implies that the perpetrator of "dark patterns" is acting in bad faith. The only reference to it that I can find providing a definition (http://darkpatterns.org) says that dark patterns "are not mistakes, they are carefully crafted with a solid understanding of human psychology, and they do not have the user’s interests in mind".

It's a shortening of "dark design patterns", which in turn is short of saying "outright malicious design patterns". I'm not sure who coined the term or when it first appeared, but I find it an apt umbrella under which to describe a whole constellation of tricks and gotchas designed for unsuspecting and usually non-tech-savvy users.


So it means "outright malicious design patterns", but instead of saying that and conveying the meaning perfectly using relatively established and self-describing terminology, one can say two words less to make me look it up on a website. It doesn't seem like a win to me.

because "dark pattern" sounds cooler than "deceptive advertising" and it gets you more clicks.

Maybe someone should write a post on "the dark pattern of dark pattern articles."

I agree. A dark pattern might be making the close button harder to see, but the pricing shenanigans are just downright deceptive and actually illegal in some parts of the world.

I disagree with cleanly splitting it into two categories, they're different points on the same scale.

Acting as if there is a difference in kind gives implicit approval to the behavior that is lower on the scale, and solidifies a dividing line that should be continuously getting pushed downward to move more and more types of deception onto the unacceptable side.

It's simply an umbrella term for similar deception practices.

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