Chroma Experience

Dark Pattern

There is good design and bad design - and then there is malicious design. Dark Patterns is the common paraphrase of interface design that is intentionally user-unfriendly.

Have you ever wondered why it's sometimes so difficult to delete an account or why the link to cancel a newsletter is barely visible in light gray on a white background?
These are not minor design faux pas, but deliberately used design practices to achieve a desired goal. In this case, to make it more difficult to cancel or unsubscribe.

What are Dark Patterns?

Dark patterns are deliberate UI and UX decisions on websites and in apps that are designed to trick you into doing things you didn't intend. For example, buying something or subscribing to a newsletter.

So it's mostly about triggering "misbehavior." Learned behavior patterns are exploited and users are manipulated by cleverly placed buttons or misleading drop-down menus. Incidentally, the term "dark pattern" was coined by usability expert Harry Brignull, who began uncovering misleading designs back in 2010. If you're interested in seeing more examples of companies using dark patterns, check out Brignull's ""Hall of Shame".

Data protection and privacy

Unethical design decisions by providers are particularly treacherous when they affect our privacy. Often, the aim is to collect sensitive data from users * inside as unnoticed as possible or to obtain their consent to do so.

The following example of a pop-up during registration at TikTok illustrates this form of manipulation very clearly. It asks for the age of the user. In the same sentence, however, it also asks for permission to use personalized advertising. The ambivalence quickly becomes clear. You may be over 18, so yes. However, you do not want to allow advertising, so No. It is thus questionable whether a No would indicate that you are younger than 18, if you are not.

Additionally, the "Yes" is emphasized by the font weight. Unlike the "No", which implies to the user that "Yes" is the correct answer.

This manipulation is called mislead. A person's attention is deliberately diverted from one piece of content to another. In this example, from personalized advertising to age restriction.

Bait and Switch

The "Bait and Switch" method actually comes from sales, but is common practice on the web. The procedure is always the same:
1.) An attractive offer (e.g. a very low price), is supposed to move users to an action (e.g. purchase).
2) Once the person is hooked (hocked), the switch comes. Now previously unknown conditions have to be fulfilled. For example, high shipping costs might suddenly be incurred or the person can only buy the product from a certain quantity of, for example, at least 3 pieces.

Sometimes you even come across products on the Internet that seem to be offered free of charge. But if you want to "buy" them, newsletter registrations, mailing subscriptions or even contracts are required.
Of course, there are also altruistic 0€ offers that are not tied to any conditions. However, these are very rare.

Privacy Zuckering

The Privacy Zuckering is an expression which was named by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) as a criticism of the for the user confusing privacy settings of Facebook after its CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Mainly, it is about getting users * inside to share more information about themselves than they actually want.

Providers achieve this mainly through nested privacy settings that are not easy to change, as it requires a certain amount of searching on the part of the users * inside or, as described above, through design manipulations.

In this case, the "OK" button is highlighted by the font thickness. In addition, users would have to go through the hassle of changing this setting in the privacy policy.

Disguised ads

This is an attempt to disguise advertising as normal content in order to motivate users to click on it. A well-known example of this are download buttons that are positioned in close proximity to the actual button. Visually, there is hardly any difference between the two. Users are therefore often unsure which of the two is the right one. If you make the wrong decision, you are either redirected to the advertiser's page or a download of an unwanted file or program begins.

Sneak into Basket

In the sneak into basket strategy, the user tries to buy a specific product. However, the application adds other often unwanted products to the basket, mostly due to an unchecked opt-out option. That is, a checkbox on the previous page.
Meanwhile, the European Commission has banned this to protect consumers in some countries, including Germany. An averted and less misleading form is the "additional offer option". So in addition to the actual products, consumers * inside are offered other products that either match or are often ordered in addition. However, this form is more commonly known as up-selling.


In recent years, a lot has happened in favor of consumers * inside. Not least due to the hearing of Mark Zuckerberg before the U.S. Congress in 2020. Nevertheless, companies continue to try in some dubious ways to get our data or to sell us something in addition. Therefore, the credo "forewarned is forearmed" applies here in particular.

  • Take the time to calmly read their options, especially with pop-up windows. It often takes longer to undo a decision than to make a correct one in advance.

  • Check boxes and rather look twice over your cart to see what is included.

  • If you are an Apple user, you can go to "Settings" > "Privacy" > "Tracking", prevent tracking from apps on your device.

  • Don't get pressured. "Last minute offers" return regularly or are even undercut by other companies on the web. The countdown timer even resets right when you close and reopen the page with many providers.

But once made a wrong decision? Then you often still have the option to cancel it or make use of your right of return. We wish you safe surfing.