Introduction to Dark Patterns

Shruti Mour
4 min readApr 1, 2022


A dark pattern is a deceptive user experience that takes advantage of how people habitually use websites and apps to get users to do something they didn’t intend to.

Have you ever received emails from some random website newsletter that you just visited but didn’t remember subscribing it? Or have you ever been spammed with lots of unnecessary notifications from some website and never remember permitting notifications? Yes? Yeah, it is a result of a dark pattern. Dark pattern designers are masters at sliding stuff into your shopping basket without your knowledge, much like a naughty kid who wants the toy you just told him he couldn’t have. We’ll show you how they do this and get away with it in this article. We’ll show you several examples that act in ways that you’ll know from many of the online transactions you’ve made or considering making. We’ll also challenge you to take a responsible attitude about your users, even though you’ll learn how to include them in your future ideas. A win-win outcome for all parties concerned is based on this ratio.

Designers frequently perform activities on behalf of users that may be inconvenient but are not costly to the user, such as automatically subscribing users to newsletters unless they click or deselect a checkbox. However, there are situations when designers employ unethical approaches to persuade users to purchase something users don’t need. For example, When unsubscribing from spam emails, the font and color of the unsubscribe link text might be changed to deceive the user. Because of the tone of personal emails, people frequently skim through them and will most likely miss this link. When people go online to make a donation, they are frequently provided with a pre-selected donation option. Now, look at this example below -

In Princeton’s website crawl, 1–800 Flowers appear frequently. And what are they particularly good at? They tack on extra charges without informing the customer.

Pre-selecting the “Deluxe” option on the PDP, which is more expensive than the usual pricing displayed above, is another subtle dark pattern they apply. This takes advantage of our unwillingness to disrupt the status quo (i.e., inertia bias).

It also adds a price to the cart that is higher than the $59.99 displayed, which is simply deception. Depending on which option is selected below, the price of the PDP should alter.

According to Harry Brignull, a dark pattern expert, this approach is the equivalent of a supermarket employee placing items in your shopping cart without your knowledge, items that only come to your attention when you get to the checkout, if at all. As a result, unless you carefully review all of the information before proceeding with the purchase, you may end yourself purchasing items that you did not want or need.

This strategy, according to dark pattern designers, simply displays people what they can buy and makes the chore of purchasing products as simple as possible. Instead of just offering users a list of prospective adds to their purchases, these designers are practically sliding things in without their permission by placing items in their baskets.

Governments are now aware of the dangers associated with this design trend. The Consumer Protection Act of 2019 in India forbids unfair commercial practices and false advertising and could be a useful tool for regulating deceptive design decisions. From a legal standpoint in India, there is a rising need for lawmakers, regulators, and yes, legal practitioners to recognize these trends and collaborate with UI designers, businesses, and consumers to develop an ethical framework that enshrines privacy and consumer protection principles.

When additional costs apply, businesses can no longer add other products to a shopping basket. It refers to any situation in which a user must take action (e.g., unchecking a box) to avoid incurring these additional charges. The consumer rights directive does not apply if the product or service (for example, a newsletter subscription) is free. So, if you come across an instance of the sneak into basket’ pattern and believe you’ve been duped into spending more money than you planned, check your local laws and, if necessary, contact the authorities!

Always remember the positive impact you can have as a designer by politely asking users if they want to buy add-ons — that politeness will not only help keep them open to suggestions, but it will also mean the organization you’re designing for won’t have to bother about annoyed users telling embittered tales about it and/or casting cynical aspersions on its motives. In this view, keeping your hands out of the basket means keeping the ‘door’ open.

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Shruti Mour

UI/UX Designer, I intend to create designed solutions and want knowledge of creativity in return.