Retailers are using sneaky web design to catch you out

Online shopping has huge advantages in terms of choice and efficiency, but we cannot deny that there are disadvantages that the savvy consumer must contend with. We’ve all come across misleading language, hidden costs or confusing subscription offers, and these are just a few examples of the ‘dark patterns’ that retailers put into their user experience (UX) design.

A new report has revealed the most common types of dark patterns used by online retailers – even reputable big names. These practices can try to steer you into buying something you don’t want or try to make it difficult for you to compare prices to know if you’re getting a real bargain (one of the reasons we enough research when putting our research together). own buying guides and features like the best Apple deals).

Infographic showing types of dark patterns

(Image credit: Merchant Machine)

The term dark patterns was coined back in 2010 by user experience specialist Harry Brignull, who runs the site (opens in a new tab). It describes the misleading, deliberately confusing and downright deceptive tactics that some online retailers put into their UX. These include misleading ads, misdirection and subscriptions. The aim is usually to exploit us subconsciously, taking advantage of our limited attention to spend money, share data or sign up for something we don’t want (for a more positive approach to UX, see our own online UX design course). )

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