How to deceptive design pattern

This week I’ve been looking at what makes good design and what rulebooks can be consulted. Conversely, I thought about whether these could be used as a guide for creating deceptive design patterns* by following the respective opposite. Therefore I reviewed rules, principles and heuristics from design legends and usability experts like Ben Shneiderman, Don Norman, Dieter Rams and Jakob Nielsen. And this would probably work pretty well.

Rule 1: Aim for inconsistency

Strive for consistency (Ben Shneiderman)
Consistency (Don Norman)
Consistency and standards (Jakob Nielsen)

If an interface is not coherent the user will have a hard time to operate and navigate. Therefore it is more likely that he makes a mistake by selecting options he did not intend to. Example are to switch „Yes“ and „No“ buttons or introduce new functionalities to established triggers.

Rule 2: Do not provide any feedback

Offer informative feedback (Ben Shneiderman)
Feedback (Don Norman)
Visibility of system status (Jakob Nielsen)

By not giving back information about the last action or current system status, users will not recognize mistakes made. As a result they will carry on with the process until it is too late to reverse it. For example, warnings should be refrained from issuing as additioal costs are added.

Rule 3: Make reversal of action as hard as possible

Permit easy reversal of actions (Ben Shneiderman)
User control and freedom (Jakob Nielsen)

By making it impossible to go back one step without reloading the entire page and loose all previous actions, users might be persuaded to stick with their minor mistakes. Additionally reversing a completed process, like a subscription, should be fairly difficult for example by only providing analog cancellation. 

Rule 4: Make interface utmost unclear

Good design makes a product understandable (Dieter Rams)
Help and documentation (Jakob Nielsen)

If the user is not completely sure how to reach his goal and there is more than one possibility how it could work out, he would just have to guess. Therefore he might complete unintended actions. A common tool for this strategy is implementing trick questions.


To sum it up it is the opposite of Dieter Rams famous principle: „Good design is honest“.

If these rules were actually applied to the entire interface, users would probably give up before they could be manipulated. Nevertheless, some similarities and contrasts to deceptive design patterns* can be found here. Thus, it would be a possibility to establish so-called “light patterns”.

Even if this blog entry contains less scientific facts, it was an exciting change of perspective for me. Next time I am going back to psychology and dive in deeper.

Norman, Donald A., and Basic Books Verlag. The Design of Everyday Things. Revised and Expanded ed. 2013. Print.
Nielsen, J. (1994a): Enhancing the explanatory power of usability heuristics. Proc. ACM CHI’94 Conf. (Boston, MA, April 24-28), 152-158.
Dieter Rams: The power of good design. In:
Shneiderman, B., Plaisant, C., Cohen, M., Jacobs, S., and Elmqvist, N., Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction: Sixth Edition, Pearson (May 2016)

* formerly called “dark pattern”