How sites manipulate your clicks ie the Neman Journalism Lab.
Most of the websites you visit now greet you with pop-ups. This annoying interruption to your smooth web browsing is called a “cookie banner”, and according to online privacy rules, the website reserves your consent to retain information about you during browsing sessions. ۔
Cookie Banner intends to offer you a choice: consent to only the necessary cookies that help maintain your browsing functionality, or accept all of them – including cookies that target your browsing history Sell to advertising firms. Because those additional cookies generate additional revenue for the websites we visit, cookie banners are often created for you to click “Accept All.” (While
The UK’s Information Commissioner recently called on G7 countries to address the issue, highlighting how tired web users are willing to share more personal data than they like. American consumers are probably similarly tired. But in reality, manipulating cookie banners is just one example of what is called “dark design” – the practice of creating a user interface that is deliberately designed to deceive or defraud the user.
Dark design has proven to be an incredibly effective way to persuade web users to separate from their time, money and privacy. This has led to the formation of “dark patterns”, or design designers knowing that they can be used to manipulate web users. They are hard to detect, but they are increasingly common in the websites and apps we use every day, creating products that manipulate design, such as permanent, ever-present popups like ours. Forced to shut down when we visit a new website.
Cookie banners are the most obvious form of dark design. You’ll see how the “Accept All” button pops up in a big, cheerful way, pulling your cursor toward your website within seconds. Dodi, meanwhile, fears the less prominent “Confirm Selection” or “Manage Settings” buttons – which allow us to protect our privacy – with more time-consuming clicks.
You will know from experience which one you click on. Or you could try Cookie Consent Speed Run, an online game that shows how hard it is to right-click in front of a dark design.
E-commerce websites also often use dark patterns. Let’s say you have found a product with a competitive price that you want to buy. You honestly created an account, selected your product details, input delivery details, clicked on the payment page – and discovered the final price, including delivery, mysteriously far beyond what you thought. These “hidden costs” are not accidental: the designer hopes that you will “order” instead of spending too much time repeating the same process on another website.
Other elements of the black design are less obvious. Free services like Facebook and YouTube get your attention by placing ads in front of you as you scroll, browse or watch. In this “economy of attention”, the more you scroll or watch, the more companies make money. So these platforms are deliberately optimized to command and maintain your focus, even if you continue your day by closing the app. For example, the algorithm behind YouTube’s “Up Next” video suggestions can watch us for hours if we allow them.
Manipulating consumers for commercial gain is not just used on websites. Currently, over 95% of Android apps on the Google Play Store are free to download and use. Creating these apps is an expensive business, requiring teams of designers, developers, artists and testers. But designers know they’ll recoup that investment when we invest in their “free” apps – and they do so using dark design.
A recent study analyzed free app-based games that are popular with young people, and my partner and I identified dozens of examples of dark design. Consumers are forced to watch advertisements and often encounter disguised advertisements that appear to be part of the game. They are encouraged to share posts on social media and as their friends join the game, they are encouraged to shop in the app to distinguish their character from their peers.
Some of these psychological manipulations seem inappropriate for young consumers. Sensitivity is exploited for the peer influence of teenage girls so that they can buy clothes for the avatar of the game. Some games promote an unhealthy physical image, while others demonstrate and encourage bullying through indirect aggression between characters.
There are mechanisms in place to protect young users from psychological manipulation, such as an age rating system, code of conduct, and guidance that specifically prohibits the use of dark designs. But it is up to the developers to understand and interpret this guide correctly and, in the case of the Google Play Store, the developers test their work and it is up to the users to report any issues. My research shows that these measures are not yet fully effective.
The light is flowing.
The problem with dark design is that it’s hard to find. And the black patterns, which are set in every developer’s toolbox, spread rapidly. When free apps and websites are competing for our attention, designers find it difficult to compete, judging on metrics such as “time on page” and “user conversion rate.”
So while cookie banners are annoying and often dishonest, we need to consider the broader implications of an online ecosystem that is increasingly manipulating design. Dark design is used to influence our decisions about our time, our money, our personal data and our consent. But an important understanding of how dark patterns work, and what they are hoping to achieve, can help us detect and overcome their tricks.
Dan Fitton is a professor of user experience design at Central Lancashire University. This article is republished from Talk under the Creative Commons license.