This week we’re thrilled to bring the talent and experience of Ron Bronson to you as we have a discussion about the different types of dark patterns and hostile design (along with why we’re on board with preferring that phrasing for the practice). We’ll dig into examples of different types, and review the importance of education in helping prevent them.
- Dark Patterns: Deception vs. Honesty in UI Design
- The Dark (Patterns) Side of UX Design (PDF)
- Design Ethics Vs Dark Side UX
- Designing Friction For A Better User Experience
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
- Senators Introduce Bill to Stop ‘Dark Patterns’ Huge Platforms Use to Trick Users
- Why I Don’t Believe in Empathic Design
- WTF Is Dark Pattern Design?
The following is a machine-generated transcript of this episode. It will contain errors until it has been reviewed and edited, and we apologize for the difficulty that may cause for screen readers. Do you want to help us speed up our transcribing process? Consider sponsoring an episode.
Good morning, designers, developers, coders, DevOps people pick I don’t know who you are. But I’m glad you’re listening to us this morning. You’re listening to the drunken UX podcast. This is episode number 41. shining light, dark patterns with Ron Bronson, who you’ll hear from in just a hot minute 4141 it the number just keeps going up air and that is the way numbers do in fact work. I I’ve written iterations that prove it.
Wait, so act. Next Next episode, we gotta like, we have to have the answer. In the next episode. I Ok. I’ll do my best to every to everything.
I will. I will. I can do that. I’ve got a couple weeks. I’ve learned everything much more quickly than that in the past. So not too afraid. I’m your host, Michael Fienen.
I’m also your host, Aaron Hill. How are you doing? I’m good. I asked first.
Ah, you answered first. And I’m not gonna answer just to spite you. Folks, if you are enjoying the podcast, be sure to stop by our sponsors over at New cloud. You can check them out at New cloud in you cloud.com slash drunken UX. They do maps and illustrations and services, and soon to be some 3d Braille maps and things of that nature. Let’s see if you want to find us. There are places to do that. There are the Twitter’s and the Facebook assuming Twitter stays up and doesn’t crash for a million years like it did today. So it wasn’t just me.
Yeah, even though every one of those like, is it down for everyone to just me websites said that Twitter was fine. It’s because Twitter was serving up a 200. Okay, response. It just happened to say Unknown Speaker we’re broken. We gave you a page.
More Do you want
but a Twitter and facebook.com slash drunken UX and also an Instagram’s at drunken UX podcast. And be sure to connect with us on slack. We talk in there occasionally. Give me shout outs. Truck index.com slash slack. whatnot. We’re not on Snapchat. We
are not on Snapchat. I don’t have the time or patience for that. Quite frankly. What? Show me your glass tell? Let me prove to me you’re drinking. Okay. It’s colorful.
Is it? Oh, it is. Ok. raspberry.
You’re close. Yeah. Okay, so it’s some blue raspberries. mixed with cranberry. Cranberry, black cherry. It’s really good and dangerous.
I like dangerous. Let’s see how dangerous it isn’t an hour. I have a glass with ice. It is bourbon this week. we’ve switched gears a little bit but I intentionally have not told Aaron what I’m drinking because I wanted to surprise him that I wanted everybody to hear his action. So I went out. I was restocking the bar and I needed to pick some stuff up and as I was going along the shelves and grabbing some scotch, I found the bottle and I went Oh, I didn’t think I could get that around here. And I found a bottle of basil Hayden’s
Oh, don’t show.
So great. So I’m drinking basically, Hayden’s now.
It’s good. Right. It’s a Have you had it before? I have
not had it before? No. Tonight is the first night I’ve got to taste. It’s it’s definitely a very early bourbon. It’s got a very kind of green flavor to it.
Okay, it’s smooth though, right? Yeah, I was. I was really surprised with how smooth it was. Yeah.
No, that’s a it’s quite nice. Actually. My like the bottle to the bottles really cool.
Yeah. They know it’s the good job. I
I was surprised. I thought it was one of those things that somebody would mention, and I would never find so because I hadn’t had never seen it anywhere before. So yeah, that’s where I am. I want to go over though, to start the night. The morning the afternoon. I don’t know. I don’t know if I should. When I talk about time. When I’m recording. Should I talk about when I’m recording or when I think people are listening? Nobody knows.
Nobody. Let’s just say that. It’s evening because we’re drinking. That’s
that makes sense. That’s probably a good call. Over at the Adobe blog this week, I think it was this week, wasn’t it?
Yeah, yeah. Well, like within the past seven days.
Yeah. Yeah. So I knew not all sometimes we handled things and that’s fine, too. So you set this over?
Oh, actually, it came out two months ago. I was but I didn’t. I didn’t read about it until this week. Okay, though. It’s it was new to me. So you’re Yeah,
so you’re a little bit of a slacker but not like a big slacker. Yeah.
Okay, still show up the class. Just wait.
So we talked about Don Norman, all the time, for good reason. So take a shot. And he wrote a post over at the Adobe blog. And first off, I just want to mention, because I didn’t even realize this. He’s 83 years old. That’s amazing. And he is still out there carving a path and writing about this stuff and contributing and that is killer, very
experienced user, I hope
that I am that productive. As as next year comes.
I okay, so I want to preface this by saying that I have all kinds of respect for Don Norman. I’ve read his book, or have this other book. I’ve read it in one book. And I have a lot of respect for him as like a UX person. However, I think he’s wrong. I think this article, I, I think he sets up a straw man, where he’s saying like, Oh, no, I don’t agree with everything different design, because I’m going to define it like this. But in reality, what I think we should do is this, and then when he goes on to describe is actually empathy driven design, like understanding your user, and how they would want to interact with your system. Whereas he’s defining it like hit the straw man he’s setting up is saying like to was like, imagine every user or like it, it was weird. Like, it was a really weird and overly selective thing. And I can only think that like he was trying to write a click Beatty article or something.
So the title of this is why I don’t believe in empathic design. So that’s if you’re wondering why Aaron feel so strongly about it? It does. I mean, it definitely sets up an argument to start with. I’m gonna say that I do kind of see where he’s coming from though.
Okay, okay. Go talk BY Yeah. So the,
the idea that he was driving at I think does make sense because empathy works well, on a one to one basis. And when we talk about empathy, especially in personas, we we don’t generally write group personas, we write individual personas with the idea being that we create an individual with which we identify, or at least can understand, you know, not necessarily identified, because they’re us, because that wouldn’t be useful. But we create somebody that lets us get in their shoes. And that’s what empathy is about. at the group level, I think of it more as a study in anthropology, so to speak, like when you’re talking about your users in mass, because at the end of the day, like let’s take a Facebook, you know, somebody that’s obviously big, you have a user base of what a billion users now, it doesn’t do you any good to think about how one user x, you have to start thinking about them a bit in aggregates
as a comment. But that’s, that’s the thing, though, is I mean, he what he’s describing in it, though, is he’s saying like, we should go and look at how our users actually use our product, or how they actually do this task or something. Empathy is just about understanding, it’s about understanding, and kind of assuming the experience of an other, it doesn’t have to be like a specific person, it doesn’t have to be like me, empathizing with your Michael Fienen experience of something, it can just be like understanding that it’s that my experience that I’m having, isn’t necessarily the experience everyone will have. And so it’s empathizing with your audience. Like, I don’t have to talk to a blind person to empathize with the experience, a visually impaired person might have using my website, even though it’s kind of like a block or a collective of them. It’s generalized it out like, I can have empathy for that collective of people interacting with something that I’m creating, which is basically what he’s saying, and the article is to do that. Yeah,
yeah, it’s, it is definitely a there, there are some semantics that play into it some philosophy, stuff that plays into it, it does, I think, very much come down to one of those arguments that, well, I but I think that the underlying message that he’s trying to say, is, it’s a forest for the trees kind of thing, that if you especially if you are working somewhere where you’re working on a product that is being used by not even millions of people, you know, thousands of people, if you get on, you know, you can, you can really hyper focus, and that’s something that, you know, I’ve seen in user tests where, like, one like one weird result tends to become kind of a focal point for, you know, writing user stories and things even though, sure it doesn’t represent the whole. And I think that’s kind of what he’s calling against there is, yeah, you do, you have to have empathy, you have to be able to think the way other people think and put yourself in their shoes and and whether you’re thinking of them as groups or individuals, but you can’t let that individual empathy drive. But the
ironic thing there is, so if he’s cautioning against letting an overly narrow definition of your user base skew, how you’re addressing, you know, a bigger problem. The ironic thing is that he is, in effect, doing that with the concept of having empathy for users, because he’s taking a very, very narrow definition of empathic design. And then addressing that, instead of addressing the bigger concept of empathic design,
it feels a lot like and, and the way like you’re describing that feels a lot like how I used to talk to people about marketing and content strategy. I’m like, yeah, you know, it’s like a circle is a direct a circle is a square. Square is a rectangle. But a rectangle is always a square kind of thing, where sometimes, yeah, there’s overlap, there’s, you know, depending on what kind of geometry you’re after, there’s just this kind of fuzziness. And I think it just depends on how specific I guess you’re trying to get, you know, at that. And I worry sometimes that like, when you do start talking about this sort of hyper specificity, you know, don’t don’t worry about empathic design, just do Human Centered Design and be done with it.
But human centered design is impacting
Well, yeah, yeah, that’s what I’m saying. Like, I don’t know, there’s a lot to be gained by grinding it down to that level of dust.
Yeah, I mean, it’s a different word. For a similar concept. The article is good. And I do think that he has, as usual valuable things to say about this topic. I’m just really sticking over like his weird straw meaning of this concept. Especially because I think that like empathy is something that I think we collectively in and out of the tech world, like, all could maybe learn a little more about, and we’d benefit from Yeah.
But the article will be linked over in the show notes. It’s at the Adobe blog, it’s the blog.adobe.com. Go check that out. It’s a great is a great article, it’s a good read, it will at least get you thinking about the way you consider users in the scope of testing and usability. Maybe tilt your approach a little bit because it never hurts to view things from a slightly different angle. If nothing else, are you trying to understand where he’s coming from and what he’s driving at. So with us this evening, we have out of his nice, probably temperate home in Portland, Oregon. I’m guessing it’s not nearly as hot there as it is here. We have Ron Bronson. Ron is a gentleman and a scholar. He’s worked in content strategy, service design, digital communications, new media. I think that that covers it, but I’m sure it probably doesn’t. Let’s just say that he is the guy with whom you want to talk when you start digging into usability and things like this. that fair? I think that’s fair.
Fair. Sounds fair to me. Like I have degrees in Portland, Oregon k Sherwin. Unknown Speaker That’s, that’s not bad.
At four here right now, so but my sun is going down. I suspect yours is still a little bit up. Unknown Speaker Still very at 6pm.
If you are looking for Ron, and you’re out, you know, at any usability conferences or things like that, be sure to look for him. He’s currently running the conference Scotland with his talk defense against dark patterns. That is, that’s brilliant going to be something Yeah, that if you have the opportunity to see it, absolutely take the time to do that. We do have kind of a super hyper compressed version of that from a brief talk he did at donut JS will have that linked in the show notes. So you can watch it. I think it’s like 11 minutes long, whereas your full talk is like an hour and a half long, isn’t it?
Math 4545 minutes
still, you know, it’s good to be missing a few things. So if you have the chance to see the whole talk, absolutely. Take advantage of that. Ron, thank you for joining us this evening. Thanks for sitting down with us. We appreciate you joining us for our our drinks and our usability crap and everything else we’re going to be digging into.
Thanks for having me. Awesome to be here.
So this evening, we are going to be talking about dark patterns, dark UX, I tend to use those phrases relatively interchangeably. And I want to start with and if you’ve listened to the podcast for a while, you know, I’ve mentioned this a lot. We’ve had several episodes. If you go back and listen to past episodes of real time overview, there’s a bunch of those that covered articles on on dark UX. So Ron, I want to give it over to you though, to give your definition of you know, a dark pattern or dark usability.
So I guess what I will say, but again, it’s good to be here. In the last few weeks, I’ve stopped using the term dark patterns, because this way actually made a tweet few weeks ago, and they were like, stop using the term of using the word dark to mean bad. And I thought about that. And I’m like, Oh, yeah, it’d be fair, always sort of squeamish about the term dark patterns. Anyway, I always felt like it was an inexact way to communicate, we’re talking about it’s like, if you tell mother what a dark pattern was? What were you talking about? Mom? Or anybody really? Right. Um, so anyway, to answer your question about what I think so I’ve been using a term, it’s even going back to using anti patterns to the broader term, but really just sort of encapsulate all this under sort of the thought of hostile design, right, which we can get into, we can for the purposes of this conversation, you can call it dark patterns. It’s totally fine folks know it as but I guess I wanted to caveat that because it’s been my road a whole talk on our patterns. And then the first thing I say, now is the Hey, by the way, let’s never use that term again. After today, you
know, I like it, I think hostile describes it much.
Yeah, I like that, too.
So how would I use got a hostile pattern, it’s really a, you know, a hostile design is a, you know, user interface, you crafted to deceive a user and doing something they didn’t think they were they were they weren’t trying to do right. And, and I was just thinking about them in the context of the internet. But of course, these you know, hostility and design exists, you know, which is kind of why every appropriated the term because it’s, I think it’s everywhere. And so anything from you know, like, you know, banner ads, to kind of things on websites, deception and apps, trying to convince the user subscription things, they’re all kinds of different ways that these things proliferate, I think throughout the, the digital space.
Yeah, I, I like to tell folks, because, you know, anytime we talk about usability and general, a lot of these concepts have come over from, you know, the architecture world, from the print design world from, you know, all of these different spaces. And it applies here equally, just in different ways. And one of the comparisons I usually give is with casinos, and casinos are intrinsically designed to trick you into staying there. They don’t have clocks on the walls, the way they lay out their exits, so that they are the end of long mazes of rows of slot machines and things like that. The carpets are disorienting patterns to get you to keep looking up at all the flashing lights, there’s, there’s all of this stuff that they have baked in, that is designed to get you to spend more money there when you have decided not to. And that’s where I like that idea of the hostility comes into play, because you’ve made your decision. I’m going to leave this place now I’ve spent my money I’m done. And yet they have employed tactics that say yeah, but
right, well, I say I say is, is that the difference between a casino and say, a signing up for a newspaper subscription, is that when I set up for a newspaper subscription, the idea is I want to read some articles. But if I decide for some reason, you know, budget wise, or just I don’t want to read articles anymore, it would be nice if I could just click a button the same way, click the button to sign up to sign up. But sometimes we sign up for subscriptions and need to call somebody, and then you can’t get someone on the phone. And maybe you know like it. So I think the difference between this and say a casino or something like that is like if I’m only on if I want to pay my light bill. I prefer not to have to like jump through a bunch of hoops in gauntlets just to pay my light bill. And a lot of the things we see that are like, are these like, you know, hospital, hospital, hospital things and design are often on sites and and experiences that are meant to benefit us are meant to help. And they said they hinder and cross dress. So that’s where it otherwise I go to the casino like I’m going to the casino like I got in the car. I gotta ride there. And I went to do that. It’s an intentional decision. So okay, yeah, it’s all the psychological stuff that happened stinks, but very different than what I’m like just trying to do something. I just want to do one thing on the internet right now. And you telling me now I gotta do six other things to get to this one thing that I’m trying to do, which may be like my Geico app, got a car accident, just want to get just want to show the policemen my insurance card. Oh, you want me to rate the app right now? If you’re right now it’s not the right time for it. Maybe we should wait to break the app later. Because right now I just need this one thing.
You know, the there’s a comparison to because not everything that is designed to get you to do more or do something that you weren’t thinking about is a hospital pattern. So in this case, let’s talk about like, let’s say I just in fact, you can, my guests can see behind me I’ve got a computer on the table back here. I’m finally after seven years building a brand new computer. I went to Newegg I went to Amazon, I was picking up the parts and everything. Every big e commerce site always has that section. It’s like related items, or you might also like, and those aren’t necessarily hostile, because while they are trying to get you to buy something else, they’re doing it in kind of a passive way. They’re doing it in a way that doesn’t interrupt you, or doesn’t try to trick you like it’s generally under a heading like, you know, people who bought this also bought this stuff. And so there is a difference between trying to use the psychology of relationships and things to get you to do more, or in the outside world. Think about the the hotline in a store. So you go to checkout, and you’ve got the candy rack or you’ve got the impulse item rack. And that that isn’t in your way necessarily. You can walk right past it. You can keep going now the kid and I Aaron, you had a good example of somebody with kids of
where this would putting the breakfast cereal like the lucky charms and whatnot down at the lowest level. Yeah, so the kid it’s right. Now it’s
that’s getting a little bit close, I think I think you’re starting to push your luck there. But the those tricks though, aren’t as I mean, again, I really like this, right? They aren’t hostile, they aren’t being designed to hurt you trick you or stop you.
Do you remember the internet before ads? Like, it’s just it’s it’s kind of mind blowing, like we just accept, there will be advertisements everywhere now, but there didn’t used to be.
Like, if I understand the economics of this stuff, like I understand that there has to be because you know, it isn’t that newspapers anymore. And like I get why it has to exist? I think there’s just a question around like, determining acceptability. And also, like people like us, we work in the field, we’ve been in the field a really long time, we’ve been in the web long enough to know like, when like, this stuff wasn’t fee out when you didn’t just do you didn’t just get online, right? You just didn’t have thanks, automatic to go from a world where that’s the case to the world, nor now there’s like, you know, kids and grandkids who have never known a world where you know, where there was a web or like, where they don’t build things themselves, right? It’s hard. I think it’s harder to, it’s harder for them to know, like, hey, this isn’t okay, because it’s just all they know, right? It’s gonna continue to get worse. So I don’t know.
So let’s compare this real fast. Because, of course, we we talked about it from like, the the hospital pattern standpoint, to the impulse item kind of approach. There’s also another phrase that gets thrown around, and you used it earlier, anti patterns. And they tend to get kind of lumped together a lot. But at least to me, I have always considered them to be very different. Because when I think about anti patterns, I generally think of them as, like the either the, you know, counter intuitive decisions we might make as designers, or unintentional things we do, like, you know, let’s say somebody who doesn’t really understand color contrast puts, you know, white text on a yellow background. You know, that’s, that is an anti pattern, because you should never do that. But some people haven’t been exposed to the reasoning for that. And I just I wanted to say that out loud. For folks, carousels are one that I come back to I i rail against carousels, I hate them. But people use them. Because when they’re sitting in meetings and thinking about this stuff, they think, Oh, well, if we need to get more content on the homepage, but we can’t take up more space. That’s the best way to do it. And it’s not even that that hurts the user. It’s just a bad approach to usability. Right?
Yep. Yeah, I think you’re right. I think that there’s definitely a distinction between anti patterns AOA, that, you know, negative dark, dark patterns or whatever else. And so there’s definitely a distinction I think can be made, I think, often, part of the reason they get conflated, especially now and part of reason I’ve even conflated them is because a lot of folks that are not trained in UX or don’t have the background and some of the things, just even exposing them to the terms can be useful. But But I think that it’s definitely a distinction to make that not all things that are bad on what not all bad design is necessarily a hustle. Right? Yeah.
And I think, Aaron, you’d made this comment. And I don’t know if it was while the tape was rolling, or fools before we started, but you made the comment about it’s, you know, the difference between mistakes and malice, like, yeah, it’s okay to make a mistake, that that’s fine. We can teach you to not make mistakes, but we can’t teach you to not be bad.
We can we can you can still choose to be a jerk.
Yeah. Most people when they learn about a mistake, they grow from it. malice tends to be the kind of thing that you don’t grow. from, you know, it takes a lot more work to get around.
Would you consider anti patterns to be like a more general category? under which hostile patterns fall? Or do you consider aunties patterns to be like, a parallel category to hospital patterns?
We think that if you were trying to categorize it, which is probably a to semantic almost, but I think if we’re going to categorize it, I’d say that dark patterns are probably pod anti pattern, like, as opposed to the other way around. Yeah.
So if anybody is looking for like a really good rundown of this, and wants to get kind of acquainted with all of the terms and the rationale behind it, the the guy who was generally credited as, like, the man who figured this stuff out, so to speak, is Harry brittle. And he started a website back in, I think, 2010, nine, 910 years ago, that’s literally just dark patterns.org. And he’s got definitions there, he links to articles there. And he’s got what they call the Hall of shame. And anytime people tweet out different dark patterns to them, they share those through that resource, so that you can actually see these things in action. And I think, and we’ll talk about it here in a few minutes, that they’re all cloud, what he is built out as classifications, you know, different types, the same way we have different, you know, kinds of usability and things like that. He’s figured out there are very discreet types of hospital design that roll into this that you can start seeing and once you see them, you start picking them out very quickly and easily.
GHH did a long tweet storm A while back about trying to deactivate your Facebook account. A lot of sites make it difficult to cancel, but Facebook is they do things like they do they know Are you sure? Are you really sure like type in your thing. And then it’s like, oh, look, here’s all the friends that are going to miss you. And I’m sure that they pick them very carefully. Like, are you sure you want to cancel? And it’s like, dude, I already said that I wanted to.
It’s, it’s a difference, right between confirming. And yeah, and trying to stop you. Basically,
when, when Windows is asking you to confirm that you want to delete the file. Windows doesn’t care when Windows is like, I’ll delete it, you want me to delete this thing. It says really important, but I’ll delete it for you. That’s cool, man, whatever. Windows doesn’t care if you delete, delete your file, it’s how trying to help you protect you from yourself. Yeah, but like Facebook wants you on the site.
This is a great plug back to the video that we mentioned that it’s on the dark patterns site. And I actually maybe I didn’t plug it yet. So good chance to plug it I plugged Ron’s video, there is a video on on YouTube, we’ll have a link to it. That is from nerd rider. And it’s about you know how to see how dark patterns are influencing you. And they use Amazon as their example of what you have to go through to delete an Amazon account, they have actively hidden the way you delete your account. And like that is the worst kind dark patterns that boy, it’s one thing to just like bug somebody you know, and hope they just give up. But Amazon has gone the extra step and said, Yeah, we’re just gonna not make it even remotely easy.
I encountered something like that recently, I’m just trying to rein in all my drip subscription things, you know, like $1, here to dollar here every month. And so like, I tried to cancel it from this one website. And I could not find anything on the site about subscription management. And I had to email someone, it took about two or three days. So they finally got back to me today and said they take care of it. I don’t know, thinking they did this on purpose, I think it’s just that they’re a small operation. But still, it’s like, I’m giving you like a few dollars every month. Give me some agency over that.
Let’s talk about how this you know, that’s that is what it is, you know, those are the experiences everybody will have a story. If you’ve got a particular story, by all means, share it with us, I’d love to hear you know where you’ve ran into it. There are a lot of ways this stuff comes into design and development. And I mentioned just mentioned the video on YouTube will have a link to that from nerd rider. That’s a good example of how that leaks in that Hall of shame on dark patterns, that is a great resource for seeing these different things. Because what you’ll what you’ll come to find is there are always these small interactions, you know, it’s the one button it’s, it’s the one time they colored a button green when it was a negative action, as opposed to having it be you know, red, or they’ll put a button in the same place as all of your affirmative actions when you’re trying to take a negative action, that the way your reflex response works. The way that a website trains use of a site trains you to click in the lower right corner to do a certain action all the time. And then they decide, well, now we want you to do something for us. And they put that in that same they’re using that train response to do it. reflex actions are very intrinsic to what makes a dark matter successful. And when you get results. You know, it’s a false reinforcement. It’s not working because the user understands it’s working because you’re tricking them. And that’s not good rationale. So I want to go into a little bit of a rabbit hole, then come out of this rabbit hole, and then we’ll go back into it later. Back in Episode 32. We talked about the 10 commandments of UX. Or rather, we talked about somebody else’s article talking about the 10 commandments, a UX, the eighth commandment was you shall make decisions your children’s children will be proud of. And this commandment hid hinged on ethical illness. The actual phrasing of the description is can you make the user stay longer spend more than they should? Or get just a little more addicted? Can you lie to them? Can you guilt trip them to get what you want? Yes, we totally have that sort of power. And the reality of business will potentially result in someone asking you to do so someday or another. I know where I draw the line. I want to draw run into this guy conversation now. When it comes to the ethical component of hostile design, you know, where as a designer or developer, should we stand? Would we get asked that question of Hey, let’s let’s do this, you know, that’s okay. How do we balance that as a designer developer?
Oh, man, it’s all time pack here. So I will say this, that there but there are some books out right now I won’t name any names from folks who are talking about this ethical design shenanigans, and specifically around this idea that all design really just needs. Its ethical standards, an association you know, like a Bar Association, like lawyers or some sort of Hippocratic oath, like doctors or something absurd like that. And I’m just going to put down, put down your effing whiskey design, no harm,
hey, I’m drinking bourbon, damn it.
And it’s not the same like and it’s not to say that I don’t appreciate like the overall sentiment in this stupidity. But it doesn’t make but it’s like an a historical understanding of like any of the stuff like the decisions that people make in like design, or just business decisions that folks are just translating to the web. And the reason that they do it is because they get away with it, just like they do in real life with everything else. Like it’s not some special the web, despite what we believe on Twitter, because all of us hang out there. Is this is that somehow the work we’re doing is somehow more like honor, you know, or honorable. And then we have like, we really are trying to change the world, like, because it just doesn’t make any sense. And so like, so I guess the answer that question is that no, I don’t think that it’s again, I appreciate the sentiment of like, yes, design should be more ethical, but you know, should also be more ethical, like capitalism. So like a you all like beyond that, when I worked in higher ed two years ago, and one of the things always frustrated me about that existence was how like myopic the workout at times, were like, like, all we got wasn’t like, actually hanging out with all you know, the broader community was actually great. But on a campus, how like, focused we were on like, VDM, just the the things that we were focused on, were only us and nothing else, without really considering the broader world of the broader context of like, maybe the school down the road, there are competitor quotation marks, but maybe they’re doing something we can learn from, let’s talk to them and figure that out. Especially when it comes to things like web stuff, and you know, digital things and design things are in control competing with their website, I don’t care about kids, schools, kids are going to go with kids ago, you know. And so you think about like design and ethics and things like that. I just don’t I don’t I don’t, I do not subscribe to this notion that that, that more ethical designers are somehow going to be empowered to make better decisions. Because either the day someone graduated from college is just trying to pay their student loan debt back, or just trying to, you know, move up to management job for the first time, and whatever else. So that was actually the I think the thing to say about this as I framed my cut my talk, and I’m looking at some things beyond it, to focus on people who have regular day jobs or everyday people, poor, not empowered to make these calls that DPS, and CEOs and so forth, are CTOs and so forth get to make, they’re not the ones making business decisions. They’re the ones executing business decision. And so no, I’m not going to tell someone who’s been in their job three years to quit, because their boss tells them to do something unethical, because, hey, that’s your decision. But also like, there, we’ve all been in situations where we need to do something we didn’t really want to do. And if you do that enough times, you’re like, Okay, well, I’m not going to be here anymore. This is toxic. I just think that it’s really hard. If people and I, this is a rant of mine, of folks who are writing books, who are like, establish your own agencies who have, you know, 10s of thousands, hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter, right around screaming fire in a movie theater, telling everybody that Oh, what we really need to do is make design more exclusive, because that’s going to fix it. And if you just let them run it and come up with organizations that fix it, that will make it better. And it’s bullshit. So sorry, no, no,
that is why I asked the question, because I think there is a lot of good discussion around what the right solutions are to those things. And whether it is because it is interesting to think about where some of those, those tropes are coming from in terms of, you know, a digital influence, or somebody who’s been doing design for 20 years, and has the luxury of saying, Yeah, you should stand up for that. Because I will say straight up, I’ve been in that position, I’ve been looking at a bad decision that I had to decide, well, I can either do it, or tell them I won’t do it and get fired. But I do still want to make my paycheck. And what I would say and and like the the sort of lightweight counterpoint I would give to it is just because you choose to not throw yourself on the fire, so to speak, or throw yourself on your own sword doesn’t make you unethical, the ethical decision is to do the work and do you know, make sure you are empowered to stay be there, and make sure to encourage and educate, basically, and I’ll use that word later. But
I think there’s another and I mean, this, this is kind of in the in between, between dark patterns and anti patterns. So I’ve worked for organizations before that have run like a B tests, you know, like you have, what happens if we make the button this color? What happens if we put this thing over here, you know, you do different things. And then you see how it affects you know, your your targets, look at your KPIs and everything. And you know, sometimes you run an experiment, and then it results in a Lyft on an important KPI. And you’re just like, Oh, this is great. I think that there’s perhaps a reflection period that should happen after that, which is like, are we are we the bad guys doing? Like, is this a bad thing to do? Because it’s not always obvious, because you’re just looking at the data. It’s like, Oh, well, if I move these pixels from here to here, or make them in this different shape, then more money comes in, or more students come in, or whatever. And I mean, it just seems like a like, like, Oh, this is great. This is like, you know, free success for us. I just pull this lever. And it’s not specifically that they’re trying to con people. But it’s it’s just, it’s what these shows. And I think Ron touched on that earlier. Don’t they call like leaving money on the table or something? is not what they call it. Like, in the the capitalism world? Don’t leave money on the table?
So let’s shift gears a little bit away from the the ethics side, because I’m going to come back to that before we’re done. That let’s just strictly talk about the types where you will see this stuff manifest. So to speak it
we have like, we have a list of like
17 things. It’s not seven, don’t scare them. Oh, no, it’s 11.
But they have cool names that I’m really excited torn about these. This is the list that that
Harry Britain all put together. And it’s it is the same list. If you go to dark patterns.org and click the types of dark pattern link in the header, you will see the same list. I copied it. Sorry, Harry. But it because I mean, this is kind of the de facto structure that people have gone with. So first off, he has sneak into basket. This one is relatively easy. I don’t see this one very often, quite frankly, what what is it and it’s exactly what it sounds like. So if you are you know Agilent shelf at Amazon or Newegg or something and you go to buy something at and when you go check your cart, you realize you’ve got more stuff in there than you wanted, or you have something in there that is like a promo item or whatever that requires you to go through extra steps to get rid of, Oh, I don’t see that very often. Because there is another one that’s going to come up here later, that I think a better fit. But you know, just that idea of like up selling up selling to me is not the same thing. You know, we’re trying to trick somebody end up selling, it’s not at all the same thing for you know, the sneak in the basket.
up selling is when the server asks you if you want to, like add bacon to your salad, right? This is where they just bring you a salad and then charge you for it later.
It’s You know what, what it is, is it’s it’s the hidden checkbox that says, Oh, yeah, do you want to add the four year maintenance agreement? Right, and that gets bolted onto your your shopping cart item, then it’s when you
have to opt out instead of opting
in. Yeah, anytime you you have, you know, operating conditions. And a lot of the times this will happen with text that is gray, you know, they will make the text very faint or the checkbox very faint. Letters. I don’t know offhand if anybody that I can think of that is bad about that. If you go in and look like they’ve got some and their example is GoDaddy. And GoDaddy is not a bad. Go Daddy is not a terrible example. Mind you. I do feel like I feel like they have improved. And I also feel like they just try to trick you into up selling more than they are actually trying to sneak something into your basket. But
this is this does include things like where you’re, you’re filling out a registration form. And the boxes for like, Oh, yes. Subscribe me to the all these emails and send me third party emails is pre checked. And then you have to uncheck
it. Yeah, that’s an interesting, like, variation on the concept. Like, yeah, I want to basket, I want to do one thing, but you’re going to bundle some stuff. Yeah, it is a similar principle. Yeah. And I don’t, I would say it falls into this, mainly because I don’t think any of the other ones apply. So I’ll take that. I like that. Or run. Can you think of any? Are there any current ones that you know of that would fall into this type?
Not? offhand. It’s funny because for me, I don’t get as focused on the specific ones partially because I feel like users don’t have a real awareness. Like, I think it’s hard for people to understand like the distinctions. So I focused more on sort of broadly on like, fad, and talking about like the way and and the way and the ways to ways I think we can mitigate fix, remedy some of this stuff, as opposed to really being granular because again, I think part of it was tension for a short period of time. Also, he’s just an amazing job on that side of being very granular and, and breaking things down. So I focus less on it in my talks. But
I, the and you know what, I’ll defend the the idea of going through the types, if only because I think it helps. for somebody like me, let’s say like somebody who does understand the concept, if you can, if you see one in the wild, and you want to go to the company and say, Hey, you guys are doing this, it’s this kind of bad thing. I think that helps in making a case to encourage them to change it rather than just saying, I don’t I don’t like this, it doesn’t feel right to like that this gives it agency to enforce change, I think is where that
i don’t i don’t disagree, especially for like more developer type folks. Like, because you come from that world. I think that like that makes more sense to me. I tend to speak to folks who are not so like, for them it they tend to gloss over it. But I think for dev it definitely is an audience that could benefit from like knowing like you having worked on the IT side for years, right? Like for folks to use, like, Well, why is that bad? I don’t understand. I’m not malicious. You know, me, I’m not a bad guy. What are you trying to say? And it’s like, no, no. Let me show you why this is bad. So I agree, the specificity for specificity can work for I think for other audiences.
I’m not a bad person. And I’m doing this therefore this isn’t bad. I guess I could totally see that. So
What I have seen in the wild quite frequently and they have encountered is roach motel.
That’s the Amazon thing.
Yeah. Easy to get in. Yeah, hard to get out. And that’s I mean, most sites, quite frankly, even with stuff with, you know, the increasing attention to the GDPR January 1 2020, CCP a comes into effect. That’s the California Consumer Protection Act that has many of the same requirements as GDPR, that ability to easily say I want to cancel my account is going to increase in in prominence, and you’re not going to be able to get away. And I think folks like Facebook and Amazon are going to be faced with that, that they can’t hide your ability to do that anymore. I’m going to talk about legislation here in a little bit. And I think this is one area where I think it is absolutely appropriate that you know, telling a site that you have to let people leave that that’s has to be a thing. I mean, come on. But yeah, the roach motel comes up all the time any anywhere that you pay somebody basically
you talk about leaving, one of the things I’ve talked about a lot in my talk is about closure experience and about how like we’re so we’re so busy onboarding folks all the time and trying to get folks to adopt our things. We don’t spend enough time thinking about when people have done using a service or tool or thing or when he dies and are using our service, how do we make sure that the closure experience has much humanity as we want the onboarding process to happen.
And Ron, you made a comment earlier that was just alluding to like the individual circumstances, there are so many reasons, somebody may want to close a Facebook account, maybe they’re being stopped. Maybe they are getting death threats because of an article that quoted them. You know, if you’re on a service like, you know, Hulu or sling or DirecTV, maybe you just lost your job, and you can’t afford that service anymore. There are genuine logistical reasons people need to take that action that you need to honor and respect. And I would argue that those reasons probably outweigh the people who are just like, Fuck your service. I don’t want to be here anymore.
Even if you have someone like even if your thing works, and you keep someone from canceling their account, okay, well, now you have a user who doesn’t want to use you that you’re still stuck with. That’s turns out great in real life, right, like
this. Third one is a fantastic name privacy’s occurring, fantastic name that’s just tricking you into giving away your information, basically, oh, OK. We’re going to make all this stuff public, or you’re consenting to this advertising. You think about the checkboxes on opt in forms and all this stuff that’s like, hey, and the the fun misdirection tactic that comes in here is, check this box, if you want to opt out, you know, kind of thinking like we were trying to get you to give us all of your information and let us do stuff with it.
You know, what, you know, it’s, I think, probably falls under this is
like terms of service, or the EOL, as you know, that no one reads, but like, the business can say like, Well, clearly, you’ve read it, or you’ve had the opportunity to read it, because you check the box, and scroll through the thing and hit the button. But the stuff is like proper legal ease. And what I’m going to pay someone like $200, to read this thing for me to make sure that it’s okay, when nine times out of 9.1, it’s like, fine, or even the ones that force friction, even the ones that make you scroll down, like you know, a lot of the software wants to make you scroll all the way down before it right, the accept button. Even in those instances, we’re still just going right through them. Right. Like I can appreciate the sentiment of them, like getting folks to read it. But I think the question becomes like, that’s one of those deals where it’s like a team having to work with legal to figure out how do we make sure that we meet the terms of service of giving folks this information, while also recognizing that we want to make sure that things like you know, the most important part to this, this information is brought to the for the design decisions, I don’t think are made enough or considered enough.
So as we plow ahead, price comparison prevention. This is one I’m going to say again, I haven’t seen very much but the one place where I have seen it. And I don’t think it’s intentional I so I wouldn’t necessarily call it hostile design. But I would just call it bad planning is Amazon. And if you’ve ever tried to price things that are bulk packaged, and they will under the price, they’ll say something like this item is 97 cents an ounce, right or a you know, $1 10 per item. But across multiple items that aren’t the same. Yeah, they the units change, or they won’t have it at all supermarkets do that a lot more. A 12 pack of an item will just be priced as one unit. That’s where I think that gets bad. And I like that I don’t think that’s Amazon’s fault.
So the before the price per unit is done using like, distributor level, like volume, like this is the price per 100 sticks of deodorant. Yeah, I don’t care about the price for 100. I want to know how much one is
I argue it’s their fault in the sense that there’s an article that came out the other day talking about like need, like literally yesterday talking about folks who just travel the country selling things on Amazon, because it’s really easy to do. If folks are using your platform to do deceptive stuff, enough to the point where somebody can create long form journalism around it. It’s probably your responsibility to and obviously, Facebook’s the easy target here. But I bet I just I mean, like at the end of the day, like let’s just say hypothetically, the social network where people were murdered, the network would not be able to say, Well, you know, hey, look, you saw the EULA and IG we didn’t know, we’re not murderers, we didn’t know folks were going to sign up and be murdered on this. We’re here for love. This is a love service. It’s not a murder service. Like they might get in trouble for that. But somehow it’s okay for all the other stuff that happens and people just like La la la la too busy counting the checks.
Speaking of which, not at all the same, but Miss direction is the next one.
That’s very appropriate. Yeah,
good segue not really well played. This misdirection is I mean, self explanatory. That’s where you are trying to get people look one way while you’re doing something else on the side, I actually think they sneak in the basket had the GoDaddy example. I think GoDaddy is much more in the misdirection area,
what would that look like? And in like a UX.
So this is all about? I like pop ups as a case of misdirection. Okay, especially when they try to confuse where the closed buttons are. If you’ve ever seen like, this, this process of hide the close button, putting the green button or something where where it is, or even better, the flash event siloed content? Do you remember this? Fuck, yeah. So when banner ads come into play, they have a space that they come into. But on some websites, they don’t include any kind of styling that keeps that space open until the ad loads, because you’re going to go up and click on something. And when you go in and click on it, that ended up saying, Yeah, in the time, it takes your brain, the process where you’re going to go, the ads coming in. And so you are misdirected in the clicking on that ad. And in a lot of cases, that makes people money, just by the click through you know, somebody is getting charged for the click impression. So there is there is an incentive to misdirect people in terms of where, like, literally misdirect them physically on the page. So I think that also falls into that. You know, in my opinion, hidden costs, his next hidden cost generally applies to anything, you know, we’ve seen hotels, Ticketmaster, I hate Ticketmaster, I refuse this with them. A lot of airline websites, up until the last couple of years had this problem, you know, that just this idea of trying to keep all the taxes and fees and where they,
they wish the price, the price that they show when you’re making your selection is not the price that you pay at the end. And so there’s like, kind of a nebulous X Factor happening in between the two.
I don’t think and what comes to mind is like, I haven’t used Airbnb yet. I don’t think they have anything like that. I don’t know if you guys have used it.
I would not say that they’re not they’re not the worst corporate of any of these things they did used and used to be bad about. Airbnb thing is funny because folks can assign a cleaning fee to their place. Y’all had other fees added to the thing, medical sales tax. And so the price you see when you browse isn’t the price you pay in Part of that is just because of how they set things up. I think it’s changing work may have changed already. Whereas quoted where if you look at it, especially the per night prices, right? But um, but yeah, there are far worse culprits, they’re not the best, but there are there are others that are uglier.
After hidden costs, you have bait and switch, bait and switch is the one and this one bait and switch in this direction, I think there’s a lot of overlap, at least to me, because the bait and switch, I tend to apply to things like when you have buttons that you know lead you down a path, and then you swap where the buttons are,
that’s that, to me, tends to be bait and switch. But it does require you to set up a expectation that that’s where it’s going to be before you know otherwise, it is just a misdirection. Another place where I see it is anytime there is a cancel versus continue option. And your continue option is really big. And the cancel option is really small. And they’re trying to get you to click on the wrong thing. In those cases,
there’s a sink food where, like, the affirmative action is like a colored button. And the like negation action is like kind of an empty box.
Right? Yeah, that would be one too, because you’re doing the same size, anytime, especially colors, right in green or abused. Because green is always perceived as kind of an affirmative action, I want to approve something. And people will use that as a way to, you know, hide that you’re doing something you don’t want to do. There’s an example in that nerd writer video where in a mobile app, when they teach you through the whole application, that every time you’re done with something, you get a green button, the lower right, and it takes you to the next step, until you lose the game. And then once you lose a game, the pop you get is a green button in the lower right, but it drives you into a micro transaction, instead of just continuing. And so what they’ve done is they set up this pattern, and this is why I say misdirection and bait and switch to me, there’s a lot of overlap, like they are intentionally trying to get you to do the thing. And then when you click the button, it has routed you into a whole other funnel, right? Don’t like it. Confirm shaming.
The name of that
can confirm shaming is
I was interpreting this as being like, when they they prompt you for an action. It’s like, do you want to save 30% on underpants this year? And then it’s like, like, yes. Or it’s like, no, I like having racing stripes or whatever. And
know that that also I think falls into the same, the same deal.
A lot of these a lot of like hospital pattern seem to be built around this idea of like, muddying user consent. And that’s shitty.
But they just come from real life examples, right, like, doing this stuff before all the junk bellies to get it just translated it online. Yeah, you know,
yeah. And we do,
you know, there’s a whole different set of these, you know, like, when you get junk mail, and you get that envelope that just looks like a, you know, just plain old legal envelope that, you know, has what looks like a government office address in the corner and everything to get you to open it. And it’s like a, Hey, did you know you can save 25% on your life insurance?
I got one from I’m not going to name them because they don’t deserve this. They’re jerks. It’s a time sensitive information. It didn’t have a return address. And I opened it up is like, I don’t want the stuff you’re selling.
That actually I think goes into the next one, though, which is disguised to add. Good setup for that actually. Was that intentional? What What do they call it advertisement? I think is the phrase that gets thrown around a little bit or anytime I have, because I do keep up with tech articles and things like that, you know, and I used to actually work for a hardware review website. So to me, this is especially kind of like sticky in terms of knowing if the thing you’re reading has been paid for. Hmm, yeah.
And sponsored content.
And this happens in newspapers, it happens in magazines, it happens on the radio on your Nightly News, all of these segments that are presented like news, but they aren’t news. And everybody knows that they’re being dishonest by doing that. But they are doing it in that way. Because they want you to trust it more. And we do it on the web just as much.
I once saw a full page advertisement that had an article that was sponsored content. And the only reason I could tell it was sponsored content is because it said this is sponsored at the very bottom and tiny, tiny text. Yeah. And also the font was slightly different. Barely, though it was very close. But it had a fake ad in it, though, to make it look like the content was real. It may have been a real add.
You don’t even know it. It’s ads in ads, it’s ads all the way down, brother, it’s
I don’t remember what the ad was for. I wish I did. But I guess it’s possible.
Go back, they’ll show be there waiting for you. They’ve been waiting for you.
Amazon is super bad about this. Anybody if you’ve searched for something, and the first search result is always a sponsored result. But they don’t present it differently. And the only way you can tell is if it happens if you happen to see that little sponsored. And what is it it’s great text on a white background that says sponsored. That’s a disguise that all the way through Google in.
In the I’m feeling lucky book that every read a year or two ago, he was saying that in the very beginning, when Google was squaring off with I forget the competitor name. It wasn’t like Yahoo were AltaVista. It was like a different company. But they were doing ads like how Google was. Google did not want to do pay for placement at the top of the thing. They always wanted to show like ads that they really legitimately thought the user would want to see. But they started doing that now though, they they allow you to pay for like higher ranking in the search results. So
do you remember when source forge was like the go to, for all things open source? And then they declined greatly. They’ve since been bought by I think geek net is who owns them now. And they’ve done a ton of work to it. And I had a conversation with one of the folks who bought them at one point. And he was telling me about some of this stuff. But leading up to that. Remember how hard it was today download stuff from source forge? Because every time you went to a product page, all the ads said download now.
That’s a disguise that I mean that that is a hospital pattern writ large, you know, making your advertising be the download button and being more like it was more in your face than the actual download button was. And I feel like that was an intentional choice on source for source gorgeous part.
If they didn’t choose to do it, they certainly could have seen it and said, Hey, advertisers, I know that you’re paying us money for quick there is but maybe don’t do this.
Yeah, first continuity is a big one. That’s any, anytime you sign up for a service, and they offer you a free trial, and but the free trial still requires you to put in your regard. That’s forced continuity, because you know, at the end of that trial, they’re going to start charging you and they’re going to force you to opt out of the service at the end of it rather than opt in. Right. So it’s just a case of turning, you know, consent backwards. Basically, you have to tell me not to do it not tell me to do it. Right, that shows up in a lot of services. A lot of the streaming services, I think still have that I and my experience is a little limit I haven’t used to lose. So I don’t know,
I set calendar reminders, cancel this, on this date,
to an extent I also see this in services that auto renew, especially like year over year, and don’t send you a warning.
Oh, yeah, I don’t like that.
I but I have a card for this purpose to that. And I always said the cards will expire. Or if it lets me submit some some some things are funny about this, I have a square cash card that I use just to attach to things like this so that they can’t read auto renew, like on me over a period of time, I’ll get emails about it. Um, but a lot of them I figured that out. So they don’t want us prepaid cards to subscribe to things because they have they can tell that they’re like, uh, so uh, so yeah, so what my other tactic is to just catch all subscribe to a thing. And if something I’m not going to use, like, if I just want to like read article, and it’s for a month, I’ll cancel immediately. And if I need to go back and do it again, you know, they’re going to email you and let you know, hey, it’s almost over. We’re going to break up now. I use that tactic because I’ll forget. And so yeah.
So that’s forced continuity. The very last one, and then we’ll get into our closing segment is friend spam. And if anybody wonders what friends Spam is, I think I hope most of our users probably will have some recollection of the lawsuit that came against LinkedIn. What the? Do you remember this lawsuit where LinkedIn had a system that recommended you to your friends? And what it did was, when you clicked through the process, it would give you a list, you know, it would check your you would say, you know, oh, yeah, look at my contacts, what? Or, you know, here are people you’re connected to, you’re doing something, hey, do you want to let these folks know, and it would send an email to all of them on your behalf? Okay, they settled, I think it was something like $13 million, they settled this lawsuit for this class action for this was a few years ago, before they got super, super big, but it was still I mean, they were still a big service at that point. But their whole thing was the process by which they said, Hey, do you want to contact all these people? They did this sort of harassment cycle to try to trick you into clicking okay. And and in some cases, there were like two or three clicks you had to get through to not have that happen. And then they would ask you over and over, like, if you were updating data or taking different actions, they would ask you, hey, we saw you just change your job. Do you want to let your friends know? And it would email if you had 1000 people in your contact list, they would email all 1000? devil? Oh, it was awful. The mobile app did at the website did it. So let’s round out the show here by talking about how we deal with this as designers, as developers, as UX people. Because, like Ron, you were saying you’re going to run up against this. And it’s unrealistic to think that it is worth losing your job over every time it comes up. Like that’s, that is not the right answer. Clearly, my argument is, and I alluded to this is always be an advocate for your users. Know that these things exist and know when you’re doing something wrong. And if you do feel like you are kind of undermining that, that pattern, use it as a chance to come back in another three months or six months with some data and say, Hey, remember that thing we did? I want to show you this and try to encourage better tactics. I think that’s one of the big things. And that’s the difference, I think also between you and in this current conversation of ethics in design. I think that’s the real difference maker is the people who are willing to just do what they’re asked and never question it versus, do the thing, not feel great about it, and use it as an opportunity to try to effect change over time and not going to happen quick, guys, I’m going to tell you right now, it because you may not get the opportunity to change it quickly. It may be a six months, a year down the road before you revisit it, but just always being that voice or at least making sure you’re putting up the fight on behalf of the users and saying, Hey, guys, I don’t think this is what we want to do. I think that’s like step one. From there, I think we go into making sure we question test results, right? I said this earlier that you can do a user test and get great results out of a certain pattern. But that doesn’t mean the pattern is good. It just means that you’ve tricked people into doing it. And that’s something to watch out for. And there’s not a good way to do that, mind you. It is something to kind of be on the lookout for, especially if you already think that there, you know, there’s a center there, in terms of, you know, you’re trying to trick users into doing something it’s like, Let’s sit down and look at these numbers. Let’s, you know, God forbid, talk to some of those users. Let’s ask them why they were successful in that in that trade. And see, if it reinforces the idea that, Oh, I didn’t actually mean to click that. But it got me where I was going. Like that can tell you a lot and it it still puts you in sort of that first position of advocating for your users if you know, you think there’s something wrong there, talking to them, and just understanding that what you need to build is right, is that, does that sound like a compromise there, Ron, in terms of that idea of the ethical debate, like be the good person, so to speak?
I mean, what’s good, really? I think, I mean, you know, when I see it, yeah, I mean, right, but, but maybe not, um, what I’ve been saying to people is, uh, is, so when I talk, I mean, I’m sort of punch a lot in my own talk, but it’s okay. is no people I sell folks on among other things, I say, you know, listen to people, you know, like, Pokemon GO when, you know, they built on top of Ingress, which was, you know, an AR game. And it’s a for when it first launched, it didn’t work in certain neighborhoods, you know, like certain certain legal neighborhoods are cool, didn’t play Ingress a lot of neighborhoods of black neighborhoods, and is like, and so I said, if they just walk down the street, if somebody got on the bus with their app with their alpha, before they even decided to go to beta, I’m sitting with beta funny got on the bus, they would have realized, Hey, there are no Pokemon down the street. Right. Um, and so like, I feel like there are so many examples of that in the work we do. Thank you eyes, Odyssey you eyes that she if you haven’t, you know, for your apps or for your websites, and so forth? Where are things where things wrong? Where can things be misconstrued as to 17 examples you gave, like, give me a number of those things that are proliferating the tools that we make every day. And then when we do find them, log those, okay? You can’t get to them right now. But there’s no reason why, you know, we’ve got you got Zen hub, or GitHub, or wherever you put your putting your issues that you can’t tag these things. And just by even having a tag in your GitHub that says Like, call it whatever you want to call it, you know, dark pattern, ethical, whatever, call it, whatever you want to call it, by having that that even brings awareness to folks to be like, Oh, what’s that thing you put in the issue without all about your in your stand up, and you can explain real quick, oh, that can be misconstrued or, you know, that can be a problem for somebody, we should fix that, or I was using that. And it confused me and I work here, you know, bringing that awareness to your teams and the folks to let folks know these things problem, because a lot of times it’s not always malicious. Folks just don’t know that these are actual problems. They think they’re being helpful sometimes. The last one is just a call a designated to center. So when you know you’re talking about building something, or you are designated dissenter designated, okay, so you build something and you’ve got, you know, somebody on the team, where’s the guests to wear the hat to be like, well, what if what if going back to that example, you talked about? We’re on a live stream now cool. What if someone kills somebody on our at? Oh, what if somebody does this thing as unsavory? What is it the other day? I don’t recall what it was or something online? Oh, is that a superhuman or something? And the guy comes out and says we didn’t envision folks, we’re going to do that. You know, it wasn’t our intent to do it that way. No, but it still happened Skippy. So what are you going to do about it? And just telling me, you didn’t mean it? I mean, we’ve all been in, you know, situations, friends, relationships, and you’re like, I didn’t mean to, that doesn’t make it better. So what are you going to do to rebuild trust and with with the person that says, of ethics, to discussing trust, if I don’t trust your stupid app, or your dumb company, I don’t give you my money. And once I no one ever says the word trust, let us tweet this and we hang up, not a bit not about ethics, about trust. And if I don’t trust you anymore, I don’t want to deal with you. And that’s that’s the real issue.
Wasn’t there in World War Z, when I forget if this is in the book, or if it was just in the movie, but there when they were in Jerusalem, talking to the one of the guys who said that the 10th man, and it was the, in the Council of 10. People, the 10th person always has to dissent, they always have to say no, here the reasons why. And so there’s just always at least one person speaking up for the opposition. So I like designate the center though, that it’s a cool idea.
So that actually comes back to an idea that I use, which is, just make sure that like, if you’re building something that you’re writing negative stories, make sure you write that story of, hey, somebody’s spouse died, and they want to cancel their account or, you know, those, find those negative use cases, the reason somebody would want to leave, and make sure you’re writing those user stories and accounting for them. Because like you were said, Ron, you I think you alluded to this, that, you know, we we met, we don’t think about those situations, and we don’t build for them. We spend so much time thinking about how we get we don’t think about how to let go and that let letting go is such an important part of the process.
Did you read about the person who their their child died, I think and then Facebook kept reminding them every year that the child had died.
Yeah, it’s I’ve ever variations on the
virus book about Eric that he wrote a book with, with Sarah Walker venture called real life, it’s a really good book, it’s, it’s, it’s sort of one of the sort I think, the canary in a coal mine of this topic, around, you know, like, we can be doing this better talking about things like stress cases, and like, not just you know, not not just said, you know, Addison, this mental Rouse someone in a situation where you’re doing a thing is like, I just want to do this thing. And now you’re going to stress me out
that like facebook, facebook knows when, like, when various good thing is about to happen. They know when you’re about like, if you’re getting married, or they know if you just had a kid or whatever. But like, they suddenly are completely oblivious. Like when you have someone die like this. They’re not. They’re not looking for these opportunities, because it doesn’t benefit them. But like, have empathy for your users like this. This can be like a two way thing. You don’t have to be a dick about it.
The reason I want to emphasize to that, you know, is important for us to take this on and to be cognizant of these things and avoid them learn from them get better from them. I mentioned earlier, there is legislation that is out there that is trying to deal with this. And I liken it to, you know, have a cute name. It does have a cute name. It’s awful. It’s it’s called the detour act.
Which it always has a cute name. Yeah. You know, I don’t I’m looking it up. I don’t really love the idea. It’s a it’s a name. I don’t know, deceptive experiences to online users reduction.
Yeah. It’s it’s this long, weird, name it. So the reason we have movie ratings, is because movies were starting to get objectionable to people. And the federal government came in and went to the NPA and said, Hey, if you don’t do something about this, we’re going to start. And so the NPA said, we don’t want the government involved in this will make up our own rating system to make people happy. But it’s and they did. But that that’s why our rating system is the way it is.
I won’t go into this. But on Netflix, there is a Netflix documentary called this film is not yet rated. Yeah. Which is all about the ratings authority. Watch it because it’s a hot mess.
is not being done, Christina? Yes. Yeah. Yeah,
the system is terrible. But it’s arguably better than anything the government would put in place, but I
don’t know. Yeah, I know. We joke about that. But I don’t think that’s the case. I think that if it would be boring, but it would be like rudimentary, effective.
But that’s the thing, though. And that’s what the detour act is kind of at and if you go look, there’s a Gizmodo article about it. We’ll have that link in the show notes. in that article, they also have a link to the the text of the the Act. The thing is, especially when it comes to things like hospital design, what is hostile is very subjective, in some cases, and they include some descriptions of things that I think should scare web designers and web developers in one. In one case, they say you have to have an independent review board, if you’re going to perform behavioral and psychological experiments. But that’s not defined,
including a B testing,
right? That’s where my thinking goes is like, Is it an A B test, a behavioral experiment?
All right, look, I do I do think that oversight is necessary, or at least would be helpful. However, I think this guidance is coming from the same people who didn’t know that Facebook makes money by advertising. That I mean, it’s
it’s one of those things that you know, if if you if you don’t conform, conformance will be forced upon you. And I don’t love that I like I love that idea. Less than anything,
the beatings will continue until morale improves,
right now that the Act says it’s only going to target websites that have 100 million or more active monthly users, which is, I mean, that’s really narrowing down who that is. But I also feel like that really is then really, though, are you down in a way that is also not productive?
I will say this, I will say this about this topic. I can only say certain things I will say because I’m not involved in any way. But I will say this that. I think broadly, it is good that somebody recognizes this is a problem or solving. Yeah, at a macro way. Do I think the industry has a responsibility to solve for it? Yes. Yeah, that’s all I’ll say about that. I think what whether this act, I mean, also, the speaking of government legislation is another act is another build actually passed called the ID Act. I know it’s redundant. I’m talking about government websites and ways to improve those. And there’s still some issue issues on implementation. We don’t know how it can be done yet. But I think broadly is good. And there’s still a lot of the solid dearth of folks in government are able to sort of triage these kinds of things. But I think broadly, it’s good to be thinking about it at a macro level, I do think that, you know, people in the industry as a as a responsibility to, to focus on it, even if even if this this law existed, there’s still be a responsibility for the industry to figure out how to not do not, you know, not consistently just race to the bottom.
Yeah. And I think the the underlying kind of current there is, you know, unethical is bad, working against the interests of the users bad, I also don’t think that that means it has to be illegal. That seems like a very aggressive jump at that point. And it, it gets to where you’re trying to use some of that as a weapon for change, as opposed to a lesson for change. If you don’t care, somebody’s going to start caring for you. And I would rather have that power under my own control than having a thrust upon me. One thing you can do in that area, and and as we went through that list of all these different categories of, of hospital design, the way that you can use this as, as us as people who get it and understand it and learn about this stuff, be willing to call out a company when you see it, Henry wrote an article for a list apart back in 2011, where he was talking about dark patterns and honesty and UI design. And in that article, he talks about Audible, an audible got called out on part of their forced continuity process by user. And as a result, audible said, Hey, we get it, we fixed it. And we welcome any other input as well, if other people find stuff, so that they make their process better. So you can absolutely influence these things. Like you have that power. And a lot of companies, especially smaller ones, are actually really receptive. If you’re not an asshole, when you go about if you just say, Hey, did you guys know like, this is really counterintuitive and harmful to the user. And here’s why that process can be very productive and getting people to change and make things better.
You know, it companies just so you know, like, if I like your product, I’m going to pay for it, I will continue to subscribe. If I don’t like your product, I’m going to make it my mission to find out how to stop you from taking my money. So like, like, you’re just making my life bad. And then you’re making me not like you even more. Whereas before, it could have been like, Hey, you know, this isn’t for me. But like, I won’t speak bad of you. But it’s cool. We can part friends. But if you make it painful or annoying for me to get rid of it, I’m going to tell everyone that I know that you suck. Yeah.
As a designer, as a developer, just be open to learning. Make sure you go out and ask for feedback on your on your work and get you know input on that stuff. Have people smarter than you tell you what may or may not be wrong and be open receptive to that if you can do user testing, and take time out to explicitly ask about any annoyances they had in that process. Because just because somebody can complete an action doesn’t mean it’s optimal. And doesn’t mean it’s in your best interest. So make sure you ask about the things that gotten their way. Because they may not say that, in the process of testing it, you know, when you’re having a dialogue with them.
I would add to that with read up on what consent means. Like, there’s been a bunch of stuff in the last five years on the internet about what does it mean to consent, it’s usually done in like a dating or consensual, sexual or romantic context. But like, I think understanding the concept of asking for consent will go a long way and understanding how you should engage with your users. Because it’s, like I mentioned earlier, a lot of these things are just skirting around, asking users for consent properly, just sort of like forcing your product onto them. The the
real underlying part to this that I think, and this comes with experience, and it comes with technique, and it comes with time, is learning when business goals are defining the user funnel, as opposed to the user journey defining the funnel, because funnels are an important part of business, and they drive the financial side of our business. But the users journey should be the part that is defining that you should get the user to where the business wants by virtue of the user completing their stuff. You shouldn’t be trying to force it or trapping them into that process. Because it’s a business goal. That’s where you get these things like forest continuity, misdirection, you know, stuff, adding the cards, all of those things happen.
If the Choose your KPIs better, like if you’re if if Facebook’s KPIs are, how many users do we have with active accounts? what they should really be looking at is how many users do we have who are posting actively? Because if someone wants to weave in, you’re making it really hard for them to leave? They’ll just go stop using it. Even if their accounts active. Yeah. Which means if you’re just looking back to accounts, your KPIs good,
so another number, we’ll see, we’ll don’t care about that. So that’s,
yeah, so the last thing I’ve got on my list is teach. And that’s where I hope we come in, I hope folks have found this useful, I hope you found it helpful, I hope it’s shed some light on some ideas or encourage you to look at stuff. I have a sub point listed here that says Code of Conduct question mark, I have in the past on the show, you know mentioned that I think that it would be good for, as an industry to have some kind of Hippocratic oath, so to speak, that kind of helps define or guide us so to speak. Ron, obviously, you have other thoughts, some in that area. But I think the the mantra, though, of teaching is universal. And this idea of, we can’t get better if we aren’t making sure to train the people who are you know, getting trapped in anti patterns, for instance, taking that time out of our schedule to you know, see something and help and even when I say said earlier, you know, giving feedback to other companies and and what you see, because you don’t know what the experience level of the people are, who are building some of those things. So it can be very helpful, I think, to share your experience and knowledge and try to lift up those those developers and designers.
I, I heard what Ron said earlier about the code of conduct and I I completely understand that. And I don’t think it should be ever a thing where like, you resigned in protest because student loans are expensive, and we need jobs. However, I think it would be cool to have like a route strikers kind of thing, like, you know, having the the pact that says these like bullet items like we swear we will adhere by these, like best practices and like good patterns. And affirmatively saying we’re not going to do these, like hostile patterns towards our users. And then you know, that way, if nothing else, a it gives us a named thing that we can talk about. So makes it easier to discuss this. And be it becomes really obvious when you are doing hostile pattern, because then the people who are making that decision, you can say to them, okay, look, we’re going against this thing that we say we were doing. Are you sure? And then, you know, then they it’s like, you can’t sneak into the you can’t be like, oh, whoa, what are we doing? Oh, look at that. Put the button. Again. There’s no, there’s no, like, weasel link through that. It’s like you, you know, you know, whether you’re being a jerk. I think always having that be a line in the sand that you have to cross.
Yeah. So, Ron, I’m going to give you the last word on this in terms of from a teaching standpoint, from the outreach standpoint, what can people do to help others get better at avoiding dark patterns or deal with them when they come up in their workflow?
I think education is really important, right? awareness, letting folks letting people on your teams know what these things are and why they problem. I think as much as you can, putting real faces and real stories to No, not really two personas or something with a friend. But anyway, you can you can help people sort of aggregate why these, you know, UI design patterns are bad, he’s good flagging them, and Mickey orders and organizations, obviously reading lots of books, like I mentioned, design in real life, and, you know, sort of different articles and so forth. That around this, but I think a lot of it is is very perspectives to like the last thing I’ll say is that I think that too often a lot of our teams are our teams, whether we whether it’s research teams, or internal teams, or folks are, can be designed with the same kinds of folks and same kinds of places doing the same kinds of things. I think it’s really important for us to like, if we don’t have broader perspectives on our teams, figuring out how we do that, okay, we can’t hire 10 new people, let’s figure out how we bring those perspectives into the conversation make make it worth their while don’t just ask people to do free work and and figure out how to bring those perspectives and and make make the tools are building better to make the sites work better local government for a long time. And that’s something that, you know, I couldn’t pay folks. But one of the make sure that we were the community was using the things that we’re getting getting it out early and do what we could within our power to make sure that folks felt like they had a voice, even if they didn’t really like what they had to say all the time and made our job harder. Well, you know, what? their audience we need to serve them. And so I think just because we can do that, I think that the better is for better for folks and their teams and folks it and it talk is resonated, I will say I’ve done a lot of been all over the country so far. And it’s definitely resonated a lot with people and I appreciate it, that that there’s an appetite for the conversation. So I am cautiously cautiously optimistic about the future of the web as a result.
Awesome. Well, folks, stick with us we’re going to take a quick break and we will be right back little will let you know where Ron’s gonna be and what’s going on and what we can going on and all those things. That back, relax. See you back here in 60 seconds. The drunken UX podcast is brought to you by our friends at New cloud. New cloud is an industry leading interactive map provider who has been building location based solutions for organizations for a decade. Are you trying to find a simple solution to provide your users with an interactive map of your school, city or business? Well, new clouds interactive map platform gives you the power to make and edit a custom interactive map in just minutes. They have a team of professional cartographers who specialize in map illustrations of many different styles and are ready to design and artistic rendering to fit your exact needs. One map serves all of your users devices with responsive maps that are designed to scale and blend in seamlessly with your existing website. To request a demonstration, or to view their portfolio, visit them online at New cloud dot com slash drunken UX that’s in you cloud.com slash drunken UX. Ron, thank you so much for sitting down with us this evening. I know that, you know, your time is certainly valuable. But at least you can still get some daylight maybe left over there. It is pitch black here. So thanks for sitting down with us. I want to give you the microphone here for a couple of minutes. Let everybody know where they can find you if you’ve got any speaking engagements coming up where they can check out your your talk or anything else that you’ve got going on.
Well, again, thank you all for having me. It’s been fun to catch up and to talk about a really important for the relevant topic. Um, actually, I think for now this talk is done. I’m working on some other stuff. There might be another chance to do it at some point later this year. But for now, it’s done. But you can find me online Ron Bronson, calm on Twitter, as well as Ron Bronson. I hate that I’m still on Twitter. But you know, so it goes. I’m there. I’m there. happy to talk to you as we all just sit going the sinking ship together.
Awesome. Let’s see. That’s wrong. Aaron. I’m going to pitch the ball over to you. No, I’m not. I’m not gonna do that. We already had this conversation. I you You brought us in. I’ll
spend like we spent literally 30 minutes in that last 60 seconds discussing how
Yeah, I know I’m not good at this anymore. Folks. If you want to find us, be sure to check us out online on Facebook or Twitter. We are slash stroking UX. You can get us on Instagram at broken UX podcast. Also make sure to take a second out of your day, we would appreciate it if you’d stop by iTunes or Stitcher, whatever. Leave us a rating or review whatever podcast app you use, just hit the like button or the star button and just let other folks though you’re enjoying the show. It’s useful to us it’s helpful it it helps us build our audience and extend our reach and get our
share with your friend Creepy
Voice all over other people. Weird, everybody. After having this conversation, I think we’ve taught you a lot. I think we’ve helped educate and I think we’ve reached out in the best way that we know how to do and the only thing that that leaves me with is one last piece of advice and I think it’s important. I think it’s something that is worth reinforcing. So I tell you every episode to keep your personas close and your users closer
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This episode of The Drunken UX Podcast brought to you by nuCloud.