Watch Out for Dark Patterns!

The User Experience world also contains as dark side. On the dark side companies allow their interfaces and apps to host dark patterns. Dark patterns tend to trick users into doing something they normally would not do. I will discuss three dark patterns, in this post. So the question is, are dark patterns ethical or non-ethical?

In the world of UX, the purpose of user experience design is to enhance the user’s satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility and the pleasure provided in the interaction with the product. But UX can get dark pretty quickly by using their design expertise to create dark patterns. Dark Patterns are tricks crafted into the interface that tricks users into doing something they would not normally do. Harry Brignull developed a website that outlines all the dark patterns on the web to spread awareness and to shame companies that use them.

The reason dark patterns work is because companies take advantage of users not reading the fine print. Most online users simple skim the fine print and go off, of assumptions when signing up and buying things. The tricks lays in creating a page that looks like it is saying one thing but in reality it says something completely different.

Let’s talk about some dark patterns.

Bait and Switch

Bait and switch is the when the user sets out to do one thing but a completely different thing happens instead. In 2016 Windows decided to switch the “X” button at the top right to mean the opposite of what it would normally mean. The “X” button went from meaning closing the tab to “Yes, I want to upgrade my computer”. This occurred when the Windows 10 software upgrade became available. This stunt created a big backlash that went public.

Growth Hacking Through Spamming

The interface or products asks for your email or social media permissions under the notion to help you find more friends. But in reality it allows the interface/product to have access to your contact list to spam them. One of the most famous cases occurred with LinkedIn. The platform asked their users to strengthen their networks but in reality LinkedIn emailed all the users contacts from the user themselves.  In 2015, LinkedIn lost a lawsuit because of the dark pattern.

Privacy Zuckering

In this dark pattern users are tricked to share more information that than they intend to do. Facebook had an issues with their privacy settings that made it easy for user to overshare without meaning to. Privacy Zuckering is actually named after the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Lately privacy zuckering mainly takes place behind the scenes that is all thanks to the data brokerage industry.

The data brokers, are big companies that collect all sort of information such as name, address, income, and where you go online. They sell this information to bigger companies, other brokers and the information is used to target ads to consumers. Users are allowed to block target ads that such up on their social media channels but they cannot protect their information from brokers.

Ethical

Big companies tend to use dark patterns for short-term results and to increase their numbers. Companies would rather increase their stats instead of making their users happy. Users do not like being hoodwinked and tend to call out dark patterns on social media platforms – Twitter. Users tend to not return to platforms and interfaces that have wronged them. In the long run companies tend to suffer because of their usage of dark patterns.

So the question is, are dark patterns ethical? In my opinion dark patterns are not ethical because it leaves users feeling tricked and deceived. The purpose of UX is to enhance the experience of the user instead of hinder it. In Europe, E-commerce dark patterns have been illegal since 2014, but still thrive in America. The U.S. does not any laws that protects its’ users from dark patterns or from allowing their information to be sold.

There are other dark patterns out there and below you can find other resources to learn more about dark patterns.

Dark Patterns

M UX Planet

UXstudio

Design Critique: Amazon Kindle (Fire Tablet)

The Amazon Kindle Reading App was designed to allow readers to take advantage of the numerous electronic books available today. It allows users the comfortability of downloading thousands of books, while not having to carry the physical books. The user interacts with the reading app by simply swiping or touching the screen but some key features do not translate well.

In my interaction with the Amazon Kindle Reading App I’ve discovered some usability issues. Upon opening any book the app immediately takes you to the table of contents which allows you to select the chapter you wish to read.

Discoverability is one of the issues I encountered upon using the app. In being able to select the chapter you wish to read, you then must figure out how to go back to the table of context or how to use the other key feature of this app. In order to read the book the user simply swipes or taps on the screen to turn or go back. This aspect of the app is well design because it provides immediate feedback but the issue is discovering how to access the other components. The user must also tap the screen to reach the page below, the navigation bar. This in itself sometimes causes confusion or frustration.

Upon looking at the navigation page the user might have a hard time identifying some of the components. Don Norman talks quite a bit on memory in his book, The Design of Every Day Things. He identifies that sometimes the only reason an object works is because we have been accustomed to certain social norms. In the image above we would be able to identify key aspects of the app but some features are new to the user. For example the middle icon on the top navigation bar is the X-Ray feature. This feature allows readers to obtain a more in-depth reading, it provides notable clips, terms, images, and highlighted lines. In touching this icon I became aware that highlighting is possible within the pages.

In order to highlight, the user must press on the line they wish to highlight but this action alone causes confusion. The motivation of tapping, swiping or holding causes the app to either change pages or display the navigation bars.This makes it difficult to highlight because the app is already sensitive to touch, in my perspective this seems like a mapping issue.

The app does contain some signifiers, in the image above we can distinguish two signifiers the blue text and the page count at the bottom of the page. These two signifiers provide the reader with clues on their progress within the book. The blue text indicates to the reader the start of a new section within the chapter. In my experience I have come to know that if you accident tap on the text you are immediately brought to the table of context. This does not translate well, eventually the reader realizes the blue text identifies with a url link, but might accident press the text when changing pages. The page indicator at the bottom does not translate well either. When reading the page indicator changes from hours remaining to finish the book to the number of pages left. I have not discovered how to keep it in one setting nor does it benefit the reader two see different forms of page indicator.

In conclusion, I believe that the Amazon Kindle Reading App has well design features within the app but there are many features that are difficult to discover. In using the app I’ve realized, I know how to use the app properly because of my constant frustrations and errors. I am able to use the app because of my memory of the frustrations. Which I’ve recently discovered is not my inability to use to app properly but errors within the design of the app. I believe that the app would benefit from signifiers and better mapping of the components.

Queens Historical Society

 

About the Project

At the beginning of the semester we were broken up into groups and asked to tackle redesigning the Queens Historical Society website. In my group, each of us identify key issues within the website, these key issues helped us design a more friendly website using the following procedure.

 

Current Design

        

 

Upon looking at the Queens Historical Society website some of the key issues are the double navigation bars, the non-interactive slider, the follow of content and the heavy text content located on the first page.

Understanding the User:

The step of our progresses was identifying our individual user groups. I decided to focus on pre-professionals, meaning students that are finishing their degrees or recently graduated individuals. During the testing of my user group I conducted two interviews and two observations. Both of these tested revolved around the usage of cultural institutions websites and how often they visit these websites. 

The observations and interviews lead me to the following information that they deemed most important about websites.

Discoveries:

  • Content
  • Structure
  • Images

These discovers lead me to create a persona, that would signify one of the many users of this website.

 

 

In this section we all learned that each user is different and we cannot assume they contain the same perspective as us. During my testing I discovered that something logical to me is not the same to other users. As a group we discovered that most of our users were very keen on the navigation, content and images of the website.

 

Content Construction:

In learning what are users are general looking for within websites we proceeded to the next step.

 

The card sorting and tree testing helped us understand and see how our users go about locating information within the website. It was interesting to learn that most of our users had completely different ways of sorting the cards and completing the tasks. The card sorting gave us insightful information on how to go about designing our site map. It also provide us with insight on how others process and look for information.

 

Site Map:

 

 

The site map along with the competitive analysis helped us design the paper prototype that would lead to the final product. The site map was created from the card sorting data and the tree testing. Both of these resources helped us learning the best way to group and range labels. We also realized that language is really important, common phrases to us do not mean the same to others.

Competitive Analysis:

 

The competitive analysis helped us with:

  •  Creating a better navigation
  • Better arrangement of content
  • The overall appearance of the website

Prototype:

 

 

We first designed the desktop paper prototype and modeled it after the Cooper Hewitt and the Museum of New York City, we then designed the mobile site. We chose these websites because they had the best appearance, content and navigation. As a group we tested the paper prototype on eight individuals, our first round of testing came back helpful information.

Overall are design was good but it had some minor issues:

  • Language – meaning some terms were confusing
  • Label Arrangement – this had to do with the desktop version and what was found on top and bottom of the page
  • It also helped us realize we need to put the title of the page and not assume users know what page it is

Wire Framing:

 

The next step of our process was designing the wire frame, as a group we decided to use sketch to bring our paper prototype to life. We divided the work into sections, I and my follow group member took the mobile site and the other two members took the desktop version.

  • First we made the necessary changes to the paper prototype to incorporate into the wire frame.
  • Second we meet as a group with our first designs, which lead to revisions because of the inconsistence between the mobile and desktop.
  • Lastly we used InVision to create an interactive wire frame.

Final Product:

Overall I am very happy with the redesign of the Queens Historical Society website. The user testing was a great help in obtaining insight on what users general want from websites, as well as the overall design.

As a group we decided to go with a more image heavy site because we believe images speak louder than words. It is also more visually appealing than text heavy pages. Our second accomplishment is the reorganizing of the navigation bar and adding filters to the exhibition and event pages. Also with the help of my teammates: Paige, Harry and Mia, we were able to bring different perspectives to help create a more user friend website.

Mobile

Desktop

 

 

Design Story: Queens Historical Society