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InVision ambassador ambassador
Ashima Sood
Ashima Sood Updated

Dark Patterns and Ethics in Design

What are Dark Patterns?

"Dark Patterns are tricks used in websites and apps that make you do things that you didn't mean to, like buying or signing up for something." -

Harry Brignull, the user experience specialist coined the term ‘dark patterns’ in 2010 runs the site to raise public awareness of deceptive digital practices.

A few dark patterns include-

The design purposefully focuses your attention on one thing in order to distract you attention from another.

Privacy Zuckering
You are tricked into publicly sharing more information about yourself than you really intended to. Named after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

What's so bad about them?

As user advocates we need to be aware of these patterns in order to design more responsibly. 

Design Ethics

The team at has defined Design Ethics as respect for-

  1. Human Rights
  2. Human Efforts
  3. Human Experience

Any patterns that can not satisfy this criteria is by default unethical, this could include some dark patterns.

Legal Implications

In addition to looking out for our users, we also need to make sure that we don't put our companies or clients or employer in the position that LinkedIn was in.

LinkedIn tricked their users 8 different times through their onboarding process to obtain the email addresses illegally. They were in turn sued by their users and finally settled their lawsuit at $13M. This is avoidable only if we as designers are aware of the legalities involved. Remember that when in doubt, reaching out to your legal team is always an option!

How to deal with dark patterns 

I'm curious to know: Have you had any encounters with dark patterns as a designer or a user? What was the experience like?

I look forward to hearing more from other designers!


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Owen Hughes
InVision ambassador Owen Hughes , ambassador

I find dark patterns super interesting. 

I spent some time working for a gambling company where dark patterns are super important in some cases. 

One thing I struggled with was balancing the need for dark patterns/business needs vs ethics. I never quite found the answer to achieving that balance. 


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