Wednesday January 27, 2016


We in the UX business have all heard of dark patterns. These are interfaces designed to trick the user into doing something they probably do not want to do.

I’ve noticed a rise in another pattern recently, more subversive than malicious: something I like to call “jerk patterns”. Jerk patterns don’t hide their consequences, but seek to manipulate people on a more emotional level. I think this pattern has been around for a while. In fact, just today I encountered what I would consider one of these patterns as I signed out of my account, as I often do. Because I want to, that’s why.

The language Amazon used for my sign out link is “Not Jared? Sign Out”. Perhaps I am being too sensitive, but this language has always grated on me. The insinuation is that the only reason I should be logging out is if I have somehow found myself logged in to someone else’s account. If I want to log out, I have to basically acquiesce that I am not Jared, and acknowledge that I am performing an action counter to what the UI is telling me. The goal is obvious: Amazon wants me to never log out, and they have engineered an emotional way to discourage it. A jerk pattern is born.

But the jerk pattern has truly blossomed with the advent of doorslams and mainstream ad blocking. BuzzFeed recently published some good examples of jerk patterns. The email collection doorslam is a perfect example of this pattern; instead of a simple “No Thanks” as the link for declining to sign up for their newsletter, users get “No thanks, I’m not interested in protecting my skin”. Yeah, you must want to destroy your skin, you scumbag. This language is a type of shaming. A guilt trip. Backhanded. It doesn’t work on everyone, but it undoubtedly affects some.

Designers, don’t do this.

What I fail to grasp is how this pattern can possibly benefit a brand. The negativity and judgement is thick. I think we can all tell what’s happening when we see this, and it’s not a good feeling. I suppose the intricacies of brand engagement are above my head. I just don’t get it.

There is hope, however. For whatever reason, has changed its link to “No thanks, my current skin care regimen works well”.

Maybe they were shamed by BuzzFeed.

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