WTEU-58 – Dark Patterns with Emma Keaveny

WTEU-58 – Dark Patterns with Emma Keaveny

Date: Sunday 28th June 2015
Time: 3.30pm – 5.30pm BST
Facilitators: Amy Phillips and Emma Keaveny
Attendees:Ash Winter, Ajay Balamurugadas, Arax Aldovino, Neil Taylor, Alexandru Raicu, Chinua Odi, Nidhi Rohatgi, Claire Banks, Srinivas Kadiyala, Denise Bjornn, Martin Mäe, Maja Schreiner, Christian Kram, Trisha agarwal, Erik Hörömpöli, Dan Billing, skg kamar

Have you ever found yourself unintentionally opted in to a mailing list? Or accidentally paying for car insurance when buying a flight? You’ve just experienced a “Dark Pattern”.

Dark Patterns, and their less intentional brother “UI anti-patterns” are the things that trip you up. Their appearance, positioning, and strange negative working makes you choose things and pay for things that you had no intention of choosing. At best they’re a bug. At worst they are probably illegal.

In this WTEU session we welcomed Dark Pattern hunter, Emma Keaveny, for an in-depth look into what Dark Patterns are and what we, as testers, should be doing abut them.

Erik kicked things off by defining a Dark Pattern as “a path you can take on a website which takes you somewhere / makes you do something you didn’t want to?”. Emma’s description of finding the “Friend Spam Dark Pattern” in the LinkedIn mobile app during WTEU-57 helped us understand how Dark Patterns are used in practice.

There are anti patterns and dark patterns. Anti patterns are generally mistakes. They are good idea in theory but in practice they are not. Dark Patterns are intentional, the purpose is to deceive the user.

Dan Billing’s analogy of retailers up-selling you warranties that you don’t need is a good reminder that Dark Patterns were around before the internet.

The conversation moved onto a tester’s responsibility for Dark Patterns. Is it OK to report and forget, or should we be doing more? Opinions varied but after reporting a bug we seemed to agree that it came down to your personal ethics. How comfortable are you personally with living with Dark Patterns.

skg kamar added that we could look to the law to add weight to our argument against Dark Patterns.

Breaking out into pairs and small groups allowed us to look closer at some of the Dark Patterns. Make sure you read through the session transcript for the full details.

It seems that Dark Patterns are sadly common. Maybe companies have good reasons for needing to use them. Making they’re using them by mistake. As a tester we have a duty to report their appearance but after that you must personally decide how important it is to you.

Context it seems, is the key word when it comes to fighting Dark patterns.

You can read the full session transcript here.

Additional resources used and shared during the session:
http://darkpatterns.org/ from Harry Brignull
http://testingisbelieving.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/bad-work.html from Ash Winter
“Evil by Design” – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Evil-Design-Interaction-Lead-Temptation/dp/1118422147

Follow us on Twitter for more session updates.

Got a question? Drop us an email: europetesters@gmail.com

About the Author

Amy has spent the last ten years testing in a variety of development environments for companies including Royal Mail, The Guardian, and Yahoo! She is currently test lead at Songkick and enjoying the challenges of mobile and web testing. You can find Amy on Twitter (@itjustbroke) or via testingthemind.wordpress.com