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Disguised ads and hidden opt-outs: Are brands breaking the law with their dark UX patterns?

A staggering 93% of people think that brands that are deliberately misleading their customers online should face harsher penalties and that the practice should be made illegal.

Are brands breaking the law with their dark UX patterns?

The news comes from a report created by design agency Xigen, on dark UX patterns which looked into how online consumers are being misled into activities such as subscribing to newsletters and even unknowingly paying for subscriptions after selecting ‘free trial’ buttons.

With almost 4.48 billion internet users across the world, brands are adapting their online user journey in order to get what they want out of their customers – but is this really working in their favour? Over a third of respondents (68%) said that they think brands are making it difficult for consumers to navigate their site on purpose, and they could be right.

Almost half (47%) of those who have had issues when unsubscribing or cancelling from a brand’s online service said that they would never deal with that particular brand again following their experience.

Dark UX is common practice in the digital world, giving brands the upper hand when it comes to reaching targets and hitting KPI’s, by tricking or luring their customers into performing certain actions on the site.

The survey revealed what tactics are really rubbing consumers up the wrong way:

• Pop-up ads – 43% • No visible contact details – 31% • Poor returns process e.g. hidden delivery info, convoluted submission process – 23% • Autoplay videos – 22%

Dark UX patterns might not just be a problem for customers, as they could also negatively affect the brands themselves, especially with tightened GDPR regulations now in place. An alarming 48% of people said that despite the new GDPR laws, they are still being subscribed to mailing lists by brands without their permission, something that could land brands with a hefty fine.

Mark Fitzsimmons, co-owner of Xigen commented on the survey results, “With so many big brands implementing these dark UX practices we wanted to conduct a survey to find out more about how consumers feel about them and how it impacts their journey on a site.

We found that 45% of people find an easy user experience the most important aspect when it comes to their user journey, however it also appears that these dark UX patterns are just making things harder.

I think that this report and the accompanying survey data could be incredibly invaluable for the brands using these tactics, as they can now see exactly what the consumer is looking for on their online user journey. Implementing just one of the design aspects their customers are really looking for could not only reduce bounce rates, but more importantly increase sales, time spent on the site, and customer loyalty!”


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