Creating a mobile app or website everyone wants to use isn’t enough for success. The secret is to create a positive user experience by understanding a customer’s behaviour and intentions. This allows obstacles to be removed from their path and lets them do what they want to do more efficiently.

However, understanding customer behaviour can also be exploited to create confusing designs and layouts intended to guide users down unanticipated paths. These designs are called dark patterns. They will often leave a user feeling frustrated and with a negative impression of a service.

Below is a list of some of the dark patterns commonly used by apps and websites, where we explain what each pattern is and how it works. 

Trick Questions

This dark pattern used to be very common, and in our experience, it still turns up regularly when browsing the web. The questions below attempt to trick a user into giving an answer which they didn’t intend.

It usually comes in the form of alternating opt in and opt out options in a list of checkboxes. The easiest way to try and avoid this is to spend a little extra time reading each option to make sure you’re not opting for something you don’t want to.


This tactic relies upon making “undesirable” options difficult to see and harder to find. This is often done by making buttons smaller, changing their appearance, or trying to blend them into the background.

The aim is to convince the user that they only have one option to proceed down the path which is desirable. An example of this would be making it harder to avoid subscribing to a service when there is a free option available.


Confirmshaming is a more subtle dark pattern. It aims to make you feel bad for opting out of a service. This tactic is usually seen on subscription cancellation pages with text to encourage you to stay and telling you about all the benefits you will be missing out on.

It is also usually combined with the misdirection dark pattern to provide even further encouragement that confirming that subscription cancellation is a bad decision.


The dark patterns outlined above are some of the most common techniques used to manipulate users. However, depending on how they are applied some of the techniques can be used for good intentions, such as when confirming deleting information.

If you need support updating your website, or would like a new website, get in touch about our web design service to find out how we can help.