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Dark Patterns: dirty tricks designers use to make people do stuff (90percentofeverything.com)
70 points by harrybr on July 13, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 29 comments



I have noticed one at the gas pump when I use my debit card. If you use a debit card as a credit card, they pay the CC fee, so they want you to enter a PIN.

Instead of presenting two choices: credit or debit, they ask the question "Is this a debit card?" I am using a debit card so the answer is yes, it is a debit card; but you can answer no and they will process as a credit card. It makes me think about it each time. Pretty sneaky -- I am sure it raised their debit card rate


For any non-Americans confused by this, in the USA it's common for bank-issued cards to work as both a debit and credit card. The same machine is used for both.


More precisely:

There are two protocols for running a card: "debit" and "credit". "Debit" uses a PIN, and "credit" uses a signature.

There are two types of cards, "debit card" and "credit card". "Debit card" is tied to a bank account, and "credit card" carries a balance paid off at the end of the month.

There isn't a strong connection between the two, at least in America. But when I was working full-time in retail, people would occasionally hand me their cards and say "it's a debit card". The retailer I worked at only supported the "credit" (signature) protocol, so I nodded and ignored the request.


It's also possible (common?) for there to literally be no difference (to the cardholder). My credit union's debit card is the credit/debit card like you describe, but there is no actual credit whatsoever. I can only spend the money in my account. For some reason, I always choose to run it as a credit card (mostly because I don't know my pin), which is kind of a dick move since it costs the sellers.


Walgreens and most supermarkets I shop at default to debit now when I swipe my card, and ask my PIN without prompting "debit or credit?".

To use credit, you have to press "cancel", which wouldn't be the first thing to come to your mind.


Or "enter" or "OK" or "clear" or the credit button or some unlabeled button with a post-it next to it saying "credit"... and all on machines made by the same company.

It's insanity.


My friend got skimmed at a gas pump in Georgia. He used his debit card with PIN. They cleaned out his entire account. He's still fighting to get the money back. Please consider not using your debit card and PIN.


Paypal oftentimes defaults to your non-credit card account. I have to click several buttons to reset it to credit. Then, it asks me if I'm sure I want to pay with a credit card. One time, I swore I chose credit, and my debit was charged. It was likely my fault, technically, but I'm sure I was swayed by designers.


"Supermarkets (in the real world) that prevent you from comparing products on price, by putting items in different sized bundles."

At the HEB grocery stores in Texas, every price sticker includes price/ounce or price/count. I was surprised by how often buying in bulk is more expensive. Take eggs for instance, there's a 50-50 chance that eggs in the 18-pack will cost a few cents more than the eggs in the 12-pack.


Around here, I see a lot of instances where one sticker is "price/ounce", another "price/pound", and sometimes a third with "price/count" or "price/volume". I thought this was just due to inconsistent manufacturer standards; I didn't expect that it was intentional.


The example they show also includes price per count, but the article presumes that customers won't look at the fine print. I have no sympathy for an uncaring customer getting ripped off; it's caveat emptor as far as I'm concerned.


HN does this to some extent:

* Only allow flagging if viewing the permalink causes less flagging

* No changing votes and small buttons causes people to think more about voting

* Little to no help keeps only the dedicated coming to the site


Oh but these are examples for making people not do stuff (like not flag, vote, or even come back to the site). I don't feel like that's evil at all.


One "feature" of HN that makes me not to vote is that you can't change your mind. On mobile devices, where it is very easy to hit the wrong arrow, I fall back to read-only mode.


What is the difference between convincing people to do something and convincing them not to do something? Both are the same thing: Convincing people to exhibit a desired behaviour.


Looking at the headline, the theme here is "dirty tricks". Evil intent. And while I agree that you can use dirty tricks to make people not do something they'd better do, I fail to see how the examples given by the GP speak of evil intent.


Heard of the Dead Man Test? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applied_behavior_analysis#Behav... "If a dead man can do it, it ain't behavior, and if a dead man can't do it, then it is behavior."


and the biggest one of all, the inability to downvote.


You can downvote once you pass a karma threshold. But don't worry about it too much; hopefully you will not be using it much here.


You can down vote comments once you get 201 karma. Articles can't be downvoted. (And don't you dare use the flag as a downvote, that's a no no ;)


My personal peeves along these lines: "add to cart to check price!" and not displaying shipping cost until your credit card data is entered.

That last one prevents me from buying a lot of things, because it seems a downright insulting thing to do to a potential customer.

  "How much is it?"
  "$10 + X"
  "How much is X?"
  "Hand over your wallet first.  We'll return it!"


but the first one is often not avoidable. amazon does this for certain items like the new imac, but they clearly show a helpful pointer next to the "see price in cart" link.

"Why Don't We Show the Price? Some manufacturers place restrictions on how prices on their products may be communicated."


So the idiocy lies with the producers, not the sellers. It's still idiocy.

But true, that does put it outside "Dark Designs".


the greatest one is the "import your contacts" from GMail and it invites anyone not using your service, to your service too.


There is a great link buried in the comments of that blog about UI design and providing feedback to user: http://www.danlockton.com/dwi/Lenses


i don't know if i'd classify most of these things as "dirty tricks". i would put taking actions on behalf of or as a user without their knowledge or consent as at least a level higher than a dirty trick.


There's a need for some space in a web browser that is reserved for browser messages. This space has to be distinct from space that can be used to display content, otherwise the website can spoof browser notifications.

Of course, this has to be balanced with the desire to devote as much space as possible to content and have the browser get out of the way of the browsing experience. But any browser notification that's displayed only in space that's otherwise content is just asking for trouble.


There are fantastic comments in the linked article.


This article focuses on the use of these "dark patterns" to mislead people, but the basic idea is used positively in many, many contexts.

Quality engineers use the concept of a "poka-yoke" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poka-yoke) to failsafe their processes and systems all the time.




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