Graeme Newell

Dark UX

Classic behavioral science teaches us that if we want to illicit a behavior, the best way to do that is to make that behavior EASY. Make the checkout one click. Make the check-in process automatic.

But what most people don’t realize that there are teams of behavioral scientists dedicated to something called “Dark UX.” These are the Lex Luthors of behavioral science. Their goal is to strategically craft annoying customer experiences that slow us down and cheat us.

Dark UX is the reason:

-It’s near impossible to find your way out of an IKEA.
-Cancer warnings on cigarettes are in ALL CAPS.
-Casinos have no clocks.
-Food labels often list portions in grams not ounces.
-You are “confirmation shamed” when trying to cancel. (“Are you sure you want to pass up this great discount on homeowner’s insurance?”)
-Getting a free copy of your Experian credit report requires writing a snail-mail letter and waiting for weeks.

-Signing up for Bloomberg News is just a few clicks. Unsubscribing requires a long wait on hold with a call center.
-Software upgrade notifications on Apple computers have two options “upgrade now” or “remind me again tomorrow.” There is no “dismiss” option.

The goal of Dark UX is to slow down and redirect users so they perform actions that are not in their best interest. The digital world is overflowing with these cleverly camouflaged behavioral science manipulations.

Some companies purposefully disguise Dark UX to look like innocent mistakes, so don’t be fooled. Next time a business has you frustrated, slow down, calm down, and look HARD for what the company will gain, if you succumb to the frustration.