Deceptive Design Patterns #7

This Blogpost is rather intended to help me shape my research topic than actually gathering a lot of new information/dive in deep into a subtopic as I am currently working on my research proposal. To get back on track I am going to start with a short summary about what happened so far.


By definition, making deceptive design patterns means „designing an interface or experience in a way to manipulate users on purpose for the companies sake.“ This can be translated into using a design approach to trick user into doing something they did not intend on doing. There are various different types of deceptive design patterns (11 types according to Brignull), which was the starting point of my research. However the prime example tangential to each of us is the cookie consent manager. Usually the acceptance-button is way bigger than all the others and additionally adjusting Cookies-Settings is difficult and time consuming. Almost never you can find „Decline all“ as primary button. This is an ethical question and we as designers are definitely responsible to find a balance between clients/their business and the user. Therefore we need to rethink all our UX decisions in order to know when it turns into a deceptive design which should always be avoided. Deceptive design patterns are usually influencing decision making and there are two ways of doing this: Finding quick and simple solutions based on our emotions and slower, conscious decisions by processing all available data. 95 % of the time we decide unconsciously and just go with our gut. A quite common way to influence decision making is Nudging, which is achieved by changing process without limiting choice, for example opt in organ donors by default to increase the number of them. To use this strategy in a negative way turns it into a deceptive design pattern real quick. Within my research I also analyzed to examples of deceptive design patterns and showed a suggestion on how it is would be more user friendly. In both cases the UI and visual feel do not change at all with this small adaptations, which proves that they did it on purpose and it could be reversed easily. I also did an excursion in my research on data tracking since it is a related topic. For 2 years there have been new privacy rules in Europe, however the big players still ignore this. But in the future there will be consequences for instance a recent ruling that would make google analytics illegal. I also had a closer look on principles of good design by legends like Donald Norman, Ben Shneiderman, etc. Doing the opposite of those rules is basically an instruction for deceptive design patterns. But this also means this is the way to reverse/avoid them. Just follow the most important rule: Good design is honest. 

Main focus points of the thesis and next steps

In my thesis I want to start with a more detailed research phase on the topic, then use the knowledge to apply it on real life examples and develop something new out of it. Following theory will be tackled:

  • Ethics in UX Design (Universal Design, Codes of conduct in UX, Critical Design)
  • Psychology of Perception (Human senses, Persuasion, Manipulation/Deception)
  • Existing Design Guidelines in UX (Golden Rules of interface design, Usability Heuristics, …)

My next steps are to collect a lot of different examples, analyze and try out ways to revert them. Furthermore I want to define a good way how to communicate the problem of deceptive design with clients and make them understand why this is not the smartest way to design and that satisfied users increase profits in the long run. Hence the thesis is a handbook for designers how to actively work against deceptive design.

Idea of a new platform for designers

The idea is to use all this research to create a new platform for designers to fight deceptive design. The main inspiration is Harry Brignull’s website, but instead of just collecting examples in a hall of shame I want to create a community that turns those examples into light patterns. This will be achieved by making weekly, open for public, design challenges with the goal of reverting a specific dark pattern of a company and increase its usability. Consequently companies have free access and input on how to change their products for the better including possible designers that they can hire. Furthermore the platform should serve as a place of exchange for designers about deceptive design and thus give more attention to the problem. The aim of the thesis is to shape the concept of the platform, do research on target group and stake holders, design a functioning prototype and evaluate it in a usability test or execute a heuristic evaluation.

Dark Patterns to Deceptive Design

There has been a very recent change in the wording of dark patterns. In order to be more clear, inclusive and prevent the further association between the words „dark“ and „bad“, many companies and individuals adapted the term to deceptive design patterns. Taking action against racism by reflecting and actively avoiding negative linguistic stereotypes is very important in todays society in my point of view, which is why I decided to change the term in all my previous articles and am going to use the term „deceptive design patterns“ from now on.

List of Literature

In order to check if there is a reasonable amount of literature on my topic available I decided to start a collective list of books and articles to quote in my thesis.

  • Alrobai, Amen, John McAlaney, Huseyin Dogan, Keith Phalp, und Raian Ali. „Exploring the Requirements and Design of Persuasive Intervention Technology to Combat Digital Addiction“. In Human-Centered and Error-Resilient Systems Development, herausgegeben von Cristian Bogdan, Jan Gulliksen, Stefan Sauer, Peter Forbrig, Marco Winckler, Chris Johnson, Philippe Palanque, Regina Bernhaupt, und Filip Kis, 9856:130–50. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2016.
  • Gray, Colin M., Yubo Kou, Bryan Battles, Joseph Hoggatt, und Austin L. Toombs. „The Dark (Patterns) Side of UX Design“. In Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1–14. Montreal QC Canada: ACM, 2018.
  • Nielsen, Jakob. „Enhancing the Explanatory Power of Usability Heuristics“. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Celebrating Interdependence – CHI ’94, 152–58. Boston, Massachusetts, United States: ACM Press, 1994.
  • Norman, Donald A. The design of everyday things. Revised and Expanded edition. New York, New York: Basic Books, 2013.
  • Shneiderman, Ben. Designing the user interface: strategies for effective human-computer-interaction. 3rd ed. Reading, Mass: Addison Wesley Longman, 1998.
  • Shneiderman, Ben, Catherine Plaisant, Maxine Cohen, Steven M. Jacobs, und Niklas Elmqvist. Designing the user interface: strategies for effective human-computer interaction. Sixth Edition. Boston: Pearson, 2017.
  • Rams, Dieter: The power of good design. In:
  • Komninnos, Andreas: Norman’s Three Levels of Design. In:
  • Fogg, Brian Jeffrey: Fogg Behavior Model. In:
  • nyob(Jan 13, 2022): Austrian DSB: EU-US data transfers to Google Analytics illegal. In:
  • Maier, Maximilian, und Rikard Harr. „Dark Design Patterns: An End-User Perspective“. Human Technology 16, Nr. 2 (31. August 2020): 170–99.
  • Ardito, Carmelo, Paolo Buono, Danilo Caivano, Maria Francesca Costabile, und Rosa Lanzilotti. „Investigating and Promoting UX Practice in Industry: An Experimental Study“. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 72, Nr. 6 (Juni 2014): 542–51.
  • Bardzell, Jeffrey, und Shaowen Bardzell. „What Is ‚Critical‘ about Critical Design?“ In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 3297–3306. Paris France: ACM, 2013.
  • Conti, Gregory & Sobiesk, Edward. (2010). Malicious Interface Design: Exploiting the User. 271-280. 
  • De Martino, Benedetto, Dharshan Kumaran, Ben Seymour, und Raymond J. Dolan. „Frames, Biases, and Rational Decision-Making in the Human Brain“. Science (New York, N.Y.) 313, Nr. 5787 (4. August 2006): 684–87.
  • Edwards, Ward. „The Theory of Decision Making.“ Psychological Bulletin 51, Nr. 4 (1954): 380–417.
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