Deciphering Dark Patterns: Unmasking Deceptive Design Tactics and Ethical Solutions

Chitra Iyengar

In the ever-expanding digital frontier, enhancing user experience has taken center stage for companies striving to engage and retain their customer base. However, in their quest for optimizing conversions and user engagement, some companies resort to the use of manipulative design tactics commonly referred to as “dark patterns.”

Dark patterns encompass a range of design elements or strategies deliberately crafted to exploit cognitive biases and user behaviors, influencing their actions in ways they may not have intended. These patterns frequently feature misleading information, concealed choices, and manipulative techniques aimed at guiding users towards decisions that primarily benefit the company, often to the detriment of the user.

Examples of Deceptive Design Patterns:

Dark patterns come in various forms, each strategically employed to deceive or manipulate users. Here are a few examples:

Sneak into Basket

This dark pattern involves surreptitiously adding extra items to a user’s shopping cart without their explicit consent. For instance, a travel website might automatically pre-select travel insurance or additional services, gently nudging users towards unnecessary purchases.

Forced Continuity

Companies employing this pattern make it challenging for users to cancel or unsubscribe from a service. Cancellation options may be hidden, require multiple steps, or be buried deep within intricate settings, deliberately introducing friction to discourage users from leaving.


Misdirection comprises redirecting a user’s attention deliberately to guide them towards a specific action. An e-commerce app, for instance, might employ confusing language or visual cues to deceive users into subscribing to newsletters or accepting additional charges.

Roach Motel

The Roach Motel pattern aims to trap users into a service against their will, exploiting their desire for convenience. Users are enticed to sign up or subscribe easily, but the process of canceling or deactivating their accounts becomes intentionally convoluted.

Hidden Costs

Concealing costs or manipulating pricing information is another prevalent dark pattern. Companies may intentionally omit fees, display discounted prices without full disclosure, or introduce additional charges during the checkout process.

Ethical Alternatives:

To counteract dark patterns and foster trust and transparency, companies can adopt the following ethical design strategies:

Transparent Design

Companies should build trust by offering clear, concise information and transparently communicating the implications of user actions. Vital elements such as product descriptions, prices, terms of service, and conditions should be presented in an easily accessible manner.

Empower User Control

Respecting user autonomy is paramount. Companies should provide straightforward and intuitive methods for unsubscribing, canceling, or managing accounts. Access to settings should be hassle-free, with minimal barriers.

Opt-In over Opt-Out

Instead of automatically enrolling users in services or features, seek explicit consent through opt-in mechanisms. Empower users to make informed decisions and avoid coercive practices.

Clear and Honest Language

Companies should employ plain and understandable language throughout their interfaces, avoiding jargon, ambiguity, or misleading phrasing that may confuse or deceive users.

User-Centric Design

Prioritizing the user’s goals, needs, and preferences when designing interfaces is crucial. The focus should be on crafting intuitive, efficient, and enjoyable user experiences aligned with the user’s best interests.

Conclusion: Embracing Ethical Design

While dark patterns may yield short-term gains, they ultimately erode trust, undermine user experience, and jeopardize long-term customer relationships. By adopting ethical design practices and alternatives, companies can promote transparency, respect user autonomy, and cultivate positive relationships with their users.

Embracing user-centric design principles not only benefits users but also contributes to the growth and sustainability of businesses in the digital landscape. Your experiences with dark patterns can significantly contribute to raising awareness about these deceptive design tactics, driving the conversation forward, and reminding companies that prioritizing user trust and transparent design should remain at the top of their agenda. We encourage you to share your insights and stories related to dark patterns encountered in e-commerce, food delivery, or grocery delivery apps. Your contributions will play a vital role in promoting a more ethical digital environment.

Set up a free consultation if you wish to learn how your brand can steer clear of unethical design and stay on the right side, for your install-base, as well as prospects.

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Nupur Dayal

Director New Initiatives
An award winning blogger and experienced content leader, Nupur has delivered extensive B2B, B2C, and D2C brand & content experiences over 25 years.
Besides, she has also built extended inHouse & offshore teams for a multitude of brands, and continues to nurture cross-geographical talent at MOBILISE.
With over 23 years in marketing & advertising, KK is considered a digital marketing pioneer, who has, in the past, led WPP & Publicis Groupe agencies across India, APAC, North America & Sub-Saharan Africa.
Over the years, he has set up Global Development Centres that led cross-geography deliveries for Nokia, General Motors, Vodafone, HP and Airtel, amongst others.

Chitra Iyengar

General Manager & Chief of Staff
Leading client relationship and engagement teams across Singapore and India, Chitra’s experience spans across digital & tech marketing, events & IT sales.
Chitra brings an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of brands, besides knowledge of a wide spectrum of products & solutions to helps MOBILISE lead diverse messaging, communication and global production.



Bill leads the business at MOBILISE, bringing to the table over 25 years of experience in growth marketing, business development, and leadership. Specializing in growing and scaling tech, healthcare, fashion, and B2B SaaS companies, Bill possesses an innate ability to implement marketing and sales programs that propel growth, drive revenue, as well as increase profitability.

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