Dark Patterns on the Web

Resolution: Group | Duration: One to two hours



The goal is to raise awareness about so-called dark patterns (deceptive or misleading UX elements) in web design and, through this, to facilitate reflection on ethics and accessibility in UX design.

Learning Objectives

1. Understand the concept of dark patterns (Brignull 2011) in user experience design and see why their use is problematic. 2. Understand what psychological mechanisms dark patterns rely on and why they may be used by designers. 3. Learn to spot dark patterns on websites, in apps, etc. 4. Develop a set of principles for ethical UX design.


User experience (UX) design is an integral element of developing any website, app, front-end, digital game, etc. -- anything that involves people interacting with their devices. Yet, the importance of this domain is often overlooked in software engineering education. This exercise is designed to draw attention to the role that user interfaces in human-computer interaction by highlighting a real-life issue in the field. During the exercise, groups of 3-4 participants will examine a number of real websites (or screenshots from them) and try to spot dark patterns in their design. They will then discuss these elements and whether using them is ethical or justifiable, as well as suggest improvements/changes to the design to make it more user-friendly and honest. At the end of the exercise, each group will formulate a set of guidelines on ethical UX design, which they will then share and discuss with their peers. In doing so, participants will gain an understanding not only of the phenomenon at hand (dark patterns), but also of the importance and the guiding principles of user experience design.