Growth hacking. Chief growth officer. Conversion rate optimization. Engagement. All terms and titles that highlight the interests of the company over the interests of its customers.

Is it any wonder, amid the obsession with growth and the deepening understanding of human psychology, that some businesses find ways to steer customers toward choices they didn’t really want to make? Or that some businesses add friction to actions that they don’t want users to take?

These methods are called dark patterns: design patterns that manipulate customers against their own interests — and ultimately hurt the companies that use them, too.

When my fiancée turns her attention away from Facebook and Instagram, they send her irritating opt-out-only notifications and emails about what she’s missing and must log back in to see.

When I book a flight through Alaska Airlines, its website tries to make me feel like I’m making a grave mistake in not buying travel insurance — shaming me for poor decision making (see screenshot below). (And lots of other airlines do the same thing.)

I bet you can think of frustrating examples like these in your own life.

There’s a reckoning coming: Customers spot many of these dark patterns and don’t like them. And legislators are now targeting dark patterns — for example, with recent bills in the US Senate such as the DETOUR and SMART Acts that limit the use of infinite scroll, autoplay, or other dark pattern trickery that attempts to get users to share more personal information than they intend.

These are among the key questions we’ll tackle this year at Forrester’s CX SF 2019 Forum on October 17 and 18 at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis. I’ll be presenting pragmatic new research about dark patterns, the harm they do, and how to respond when your company heads toward the “dark side.” It’s not just “change your culture” or “dark patterns are unethical.” Instead, I’ll describe concrete actions you can take to build influence, fight counter-arguments, and spot and connect with allies in your organization.

Want to participate in the research? Reach out and tell me (confidentially, if you prefer) about how you respond when a colleague asks you to help advance a dark pattern.

Want to join me at the event and discuss these questions in person? Register for CX SF 2019.

I hope to see you there!



Below is a screenshot of that travel insurance sales dark pattern:

After selecting “no,” the following message appears: