Are You Afraid Of The Dark Patterns?

by Owen Phillips


Over the weekend, the New York Times raised concerns over “dark patterns”: web interfaces carefully crafted to manipulate users. For example, there’s the “roach motel,” named after the brand of insect trap that provides a seamless sign-up, but a difficult cancellation process. More common, though, are the websites that either hide the option to unsubscribe from their newsletters or just obfuscate the option to opt-out.

Harry Brignull, a user-experience consultant, coined the term in 2010 and began logging various types on Ryainair, Audible, and Skype have all been featured. Brignull said his goal was to draw attention to the issue and shame the websites who use them.

Let the Walk of Atonement begin:

At Sephora, unsubscribing is as simple as removing a check. But as soon as a user agrees to the terms and conditions the box rechecks itself. Choice is an illusion.

sephoraGIF is a classic roach motel — you can sign up online, but you can’t cancel online.


(Or you could do what one what one commenter on Hacker News suggests…)


Allegedly, there is an option to unsubscribe somewhere in this email from JetBlue.


Amazon changes the color of the font of the unsubscribe option.


I spy with my little eye an “unsubscribe” from Hillary for America.


Double negatives aren’t not used on


100 percent of Twitter users bitched about the new algorithmic timeline. Only 2 percent opted out.


The Royal Mail, the UK’s largest postal service, first tells users to check a box if they do not wish to receive communications, followed by instructions to check a box if they would like to receive emails from third parties.


The path of least resistance leads to an inbox full of emails from Ticketmaster.

Shady dark pattern by @ticketmaster asks users to check boxes to unsubscribe from their email notifications

— mark o (@mopland) October 30, 2015

“At least they give us the option.” How progressive of Shutterstock!

@Shutterstock “Auto-Renew” defaults to “On” — another #darkpattern (but at least they give us the option) — Kyle Becker (@Kyle__Becker) October 25, 2015

When you go to buy a ticket to that musical show everyone is on about, Vivid Seats gives you a whole bunch of options for groups of two, three, and four. But the prices they show are for ONE Hamilton ticket — you don’t learn that until you’re on the payment page.


— Let’s end this tour with one of those roach motels the New York Times is talking about: