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Dark Patterns (darkpatterns.org)
149 points by pmontra on Dec 20, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 49 comments

Reddit mobile site version has one of the more egregious design patterns concerning how they try to get you to install their app.

If you're not logged in and open up reddit.com on mobile, the first thing you will notice is a footer asking for you to open in their app, and your choices are "No", or a prominent "Continue" [1].

So if you click no, you're still not done, not even halfway on their dark pattern for getting you to install their app. When you now try to open a post it will stop the page, darken it and ask you to again open it in the app [2]. Now "Continue" means continuing to seeing the post so you click that.

Okay after twice as many clicks as necessary and 2 prompts you're finally looking at a Reddit post, but you're still not done! When you load in the post you will see a huge bottom footer _again_ asking you to open it up in the app [3]. And now you have the two choices and the worst dark pattern of all. You see a huge "Continue" button, which now means continue to open it in the app, or a really small link that says "or go to the mobile site". The thing is, is that you are already on the mobile site, and clicking that link just removes the footer, you won't actually "go" anywhere... So here they are tricking people to thinking that clicking continue will let you keep looking at the post as normal (as they taught you on the previous prompt), and by clicking the the small tiny link that is easy to miss, you will be brought to somewhere else. But the case is actually the opposite.

Reddits mobile page is just the worst collection of dark patterns I know of, in line with the fake download buttons littering shady sites. It's almost unusable now, and I'm sure that is their intention. Make the mobile website experience so horrible that you are forced to download their app so you don't have to spend half your time clicking away prompts.

1: https://i.imgur.com/fYqabnx.png

2: https://i.imgur.com/DuuzSvD.png

3: https://i.imgur.com/qQ4lAIM.png

Yeah. Reddit's mobile experience is a frequent topic on /r/assholedesign (recent example with video: https://www.reddit.com/r/assholedesign/comments/9oy75c/reddi...).

Their efforts this year to make the desktop site look and work more like 9gag unless you plug "old.reddit.com" into the url bar was pretty fun too.

It's been for the best though. It's helped me cut my time on that site down to almost nothing, which has improved my overall mood quite a bit.

If you are logged in, you can set in your preference to always use the old design. As of lately though, "always" means "usually", as sometimes it will lose track of it and redirect you to the new design until you "opt-out" again.

Even then its a patchwork. Like some of the mod tools are new design only and then any tabs opened from there are new design.

Annoying AF & pretty sure it's not accidental

Sounds like bad code to me.

> Their efforts this year to make the desktop site look and work more like 9gag unless you plug "old.reddit.com" into the url bar was pretty fun too.

I've used reddit for almost a decade at this point. What makes the new changes similar to 9gag?

I disliked the redesign for 5 minutes, after getting used to the modal behavior I would not want to go back to the old reddit site.

It breaks commonly used tools, like RES. And using reddit without keyboard navigation is just painful.

> It's helped me cut my time on that site down to almost nothing, which has improved my overall mood quite a bit.

Hallmark of something designed to be additive is generating short term euphoria and a depressed baseline mood.

I actually like the bad design of the reddit mobile site, but not for a reason reddit will like.

I used to have the Reddit is Fun app installed, which works really well. The problem was that I spent way too much on time on reddit. When I realized this shortly after the new mobile page was released, I uninstalled the app and now use reddit from the browser. The experience is much worse, but this means that I don't open reddit all the time, and thus my time spent on it was reduced to a moderate amount.

Reddit desktop too is no stranger to dark patterns.

When they rolled out their "new" interface they provided a link to "old reddit.com", but clicking this took you back to the reddit home page, not the page you are on.

They fixed this for subreddits but it still happens for posts, so if you are at a post and click "old reddit" you don't get the same post in old reddit, you just lose the post. (which is available, just replacing www.reddit with old.reddit gets you there, and it did at one point work that way).

No doubt they have some metric to reduce people viewing in old.reddit.com but it's very hostile the way they have done this.

Another change toward the dark: On their sign up page they used to advertise that you could sign up without an email address so you could remain anonymous. I can no longer work out how to sign up without providing an email address. (Although they don't validate, I would rather not provide false information).

Regarding new design: I did opted-out for it long ago but since August I'm being randomly served with new interface by force while browsing various subs - luckily, a cookie removal fixes the thing; they're definitely ignoring user wish to stay on simple, fast loading old interface and impose this performance and UX monstrosity. I am aware that eventually old interface will be gone because in long term it wouldn't attract audience that prefers modern bulky UI style. I won't be surprised that in the happy PR message they'll announce that reddit will use one interface since day x and x % of userbase is in maniac love with this best change they ever made.

You just leave the field empty

It is annoying enough that I never became a regular user and avoid them when they pop up in search results.

This is exactly why I no longer use reddit on my phone anymore.

Some sites shoot themselves in the foot with dark patterns. J.C. Whitney, the auto parts company, does this. If you go to their site, you probably want to buy an auto part. They have a reasonable system where you select make and model of vehicle. But then they start throwing full screen ads at you on mobile which get in the way of buying auto parts. It's really hard to get past those ads.

I tried twice to buy a part from them, then gave up and went to a competitor. On the compeitor's site, I was done in five minutes, and the part arrived today.

Fandango, the movie ticketing service, has a similar problem. If you go there, you either want to buy a ticket or find out what's playing. They keep shoving trailers and popups in your face as you try to get to the desired movie and the ticket ordering page. And they keep trying to get you to install their "app". I've stopped buying tickets on line from them; I just go to the theater and pay cash. It's faster.

> Some sites shoot themselves in the foot with dark patterns.

I was thinking this when trying to navigate altium.com.

Hint: we have a license for their software which we spend about $5-10 grand a year on and it's behaving like an ad sponsored clickbait site, throwing one pop up after another. Click on video, pop up shows up with a tiny ill placed dismiss button.

The one where you can't click 'not now' for OSX Mojave is just painful. Clicking on the side doesn't work, neither does hovering. You have to open the Apple Store every single time, just to remove the notification.

Elsewhere, I seem to have taken note that there's been a significant decrease in modal usage across the web. Seeing a lot less popups and other crappy widgets.

Nothing more juicy than a brigade of 3-5 popups moments after loading a page. /s

The update notification on macos can be removed by drag and dropping it out of the screen. But it will show up again (after 24h IIRC) if you don’t change your auto update settings.

It does not work like this for Mojave notification. The only way to remove is to click and open App store.

Probably mostly because browsers just block them. If it wasn’t for that we’d still be clicking away pop ups and pop unders all day.

The most relevant looking link on the front page is


which is just a link to Twitter



Isn't this a dark pattern itself? :)

That's why the link to Twitter is placed under the "Hall of shame" title.

It's not a link to Twitter (as in a redirect).

It's just repurposing Twitter as a CMS for their Hall of Shame. I don't see what would be the dark pattern here?

Maybe it's "using Twitter as a CMS"?


I block Javascript (and Twitter), so couldn't see content in hall-of-shame, only a link to the Twitter page. It just seemed ironic to have a website about dark patterns and one of the most relevant piece of content is not a simple, nice (maybe sortable) table hosted locally, but a rather chaotic list on social media, with all the tracking, etc.

Darkpatterns.org can still be useful, I haven't RTFA, sorry. :)

Linkedin was particularly annoying with the "you are missing out a lot ... a lot has happened since ..." type of emails. It would also give me couple of non-existent new notifications ... abusing the red indicator badges

> non-existent new notifications ... abusing the red indicator badges

I think the most egregious instance of this I have seen is the allegation that Facebook displayed fake notification badges during the GDPR flow, which pressures users into quickly accepting the terms so that they can see the notifications: https://www.dailydot.com/debug/facebook-gdpr-notification-la...

> Facebook, for its part, told the Daily Dot that the red notification icons are generic visuals meant to reassure users that the terms they’re agreeing to do, in fact, come from the social platform. The icons were supposedly added so people wouldn’t suspect they were agreeing to a phishing notification.


Google has also become quite disgraceful for this - they've added prompts to their mobile apps to get you to install their other mobile apps. For example, when you click a link in their Gmail iOS app: "Do you want to open this link in Chrome [Install] or Safari [Continue]?"

I hope whichever product manager and UX designer contributed this are cursed to a life of either scalding or freezing showers caused by incomprehensible taps in every hotel they visit.

That's an interesting and well-curated list!

I do wonder though to what extent these patterns are being introduced on purpose (or even A/B-tested for maximum 'efficiency') or just a result of 'form over function' or, in some cases, just an indicator of missing technical prowess (scaling the buttons with the font size, for example).

It's hard to say - "never ascribe to malice what can be sufficiently explained by stupidity" is all very well, but on the other hand, sufficiently advanced malice is indistinguishable from stupidity...

Wait. When I click the Hall of Shame all I see is a single link to a Twitter feed (probably my adblock is working). What kind of pattern is that? ;)

Emm.. I'm going to guess.. it's a dark pattern? :p

EDIT: So the part that could be improved is that it's on Twitter. But I guess it's easier to maintain it that way.

You do not see the twitter iframe?

I don't. Blocked.

This should include business processes in addition to UI tricks. For example, you can easily subscribe to NYT online but to unsubscribe you have to talk to a salesperson. FU NYT.

This is somewhat covered by https://darkpatterns.org/types-of-dark-pattern/roach-motel

Gyms are notorious for this. Almost any staff member can sign someone up, but if you want to cancel theres only one guy in the entire gym authorized to do that, and they are frequently "out to lunch".

Either that or you have to print a cancellation form and send it by snail mail with 30 days notice. And if you dont send by certified mail they will claim they never received it.

This is every newspaper ever. I have probably already paid for a couple of extra weeks of the Globe & Mail at full price because I have been dragging my feet on calling to cancel my $1 trial. Same deal with the Economist and Bloomberg Businessweek.

That is pretty much standard practice in periodical publishing in my experience. My most recent encounter with it was with New Scientist.

Medium's got a few dark patterns too. Most notably, how hard they try to trick people into viewing paid articles and losing their three or so free articles supply.

Seriously. Every single article on the front page is usually a paid article. Every single article in the email digest is usually a paid article. And in all cases, actually figuring this out is pretty hard, since you have to know the tiny star icon stands for 'paid' rather than any of the four million other meanings it may have.

Let's not forget how hard they push you to register either. Those giant modals and bars can be utterly obnoxious.

Other examples I've seen recently are:

Twitter and its absolute obsession with getting you to view tweets in 'non linear' order. Every time you set it to 'chronological order' or what not, it seems to revert back to their algorithm the next time you load the site or app. No, I don't want this. Why is the idea of a simple timeline so scary for social media sites now?

As well as YouTube and its attempts to smuggle content you don't want into your notifications list. Again, if users click subscribe, they want to do just that, not get spammed with promoted content so you can make a quick buck.

It's annoying how bad most large sites nowadays seem to be about stuff like this.

> Twitter and its absolute obsession

Oh yes, Twitter, that very Twitter that shows me full-screen modals [0] after [0] every [0] other [0] scroll [0] on [0] its [0] mobile [0] website [0].

[0] https://i.imgur.com/q19sqZw.png

Had something like that happent o me when I tried to terminate my Audible abo. Apparently, the website was broken, the button to click simply didn't do anything. Last resort was to call support via phone. This taught me a lesson, and was bad for the whole online bussiness. Since that, I think trice before I go into a monthly-payment thing, because, after all, who knows how hard it will be to get out of it again?

Marriage is always easier than divorce. In those terms its a dark pattern too.

Separation is easier than marriage though.

I love to right click, "block element" with ublock origin.

I wonder if websites are legally required to prove user clicked on "I agree".

If it has anything to do with personal data, under GDPR they must gather consent so yes, they must prove users gave them consent.

Hiding elements with ublock is my favorite anticlutter activity on my phone.

Coincidentally, we just covered this on our podcast today:


We didn't get into all of them, but covered a lot of them.

s/dark pattern/shit design

To some extent, yes. But the term pattern is more apt because it also teaches users to expect a certain behaviour from a website. For example: the GDPR laws result in a lot of these 'We use cookies for FOO' popups; and users are now 'trained' or even 'conditioned' to just click on them as fast as possible to get to the article.

This is problematic from a UX point of view because whenever you _do_ show relevant information, it might get lost in the noise.

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