Filed under "Critique"
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 Amazon.com 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 ELLE.com 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, Elle.com has changed its link to “No thanks, my current skin care regimen works well”.
Maybe they were shamed by BuzzFeed.
500XL Speakers from Fred: A Review for Your Reading Pleasure
I’ve been eyeballing these speakers ever since they hit the Fred website, so when Patrick Haney pointed me towards a store that was actually selling them, I had to buy. Like, immediately.
And they arrived today!
The Making of a Lovable Mascot.
- Resembles perfect cube of poop? Check.
- Represents edible food in spite of poop-like properties? Check.
- Communicates with creepy giggles and hugs? Check.
- Leaves messy brown smears on all who touch him? Check.
- Interactive site is made available en español so that El Blocko de Poopo can be enjoyed by all Americanos? Check.
Longstanding iTunes Deficiencies.
While it’s still cool to poke at Apple a little bit, let me address two issues that I believe have been serious oversights on the part of Apple’s iTunes. Oh, I know there are a lot of complaints (gapless playback, anyone?) but these two items are at the core of music navigation, and it seems that after 5 versions of iTunes these issues could have been resolved.
So have you seen the new Netzero TV spot? My jaw just about hit the floor when I saw it last night.
You’ve seen the AOL ad, right? A secretary for an AOL executive is approached at her desk by a line of customers who have suggestions about how to improve the internet service. The secretary goes into the executive’s office to tell him that there are some customers outside who have some new ideas for the company. He asks how many, and she says, “All of them” as the camera angle pans up to show a massive crowd of people encircling the building. He then says, “We’re going to need more chairs.”
It’s all part of AOL’s new marketing campaign aimed at making the lagging ISP polish its image into something more people-friendly.
Last night, this is how the Netzero commercial went:
A secretary for an AOL executive is approached at her desk by a line of customers. The first man in line says something like “We’re just here to tell you that we’re all switching to Netzero, because they offer the same service for half the price.” The secretary goes into the executive’s office to tell him that there are some customers outside who are switching to Netzero. He asks how many, and she says, “All of them” as the camera angle pans up to show a massive crowd of people encircling the building.
Using a competitors’ logo or marketing style in advertising is nothing new. The cola and burger wars have made that tactic pretty common. What is most surprising about the new Netzero ad is that it is identical in visual style to the AOL ad 
right down to using the same actors. Not only are the sets, camera angles, color palette and format identical, but so are the actors. it is only at the moment you hear the customer say, “We’re just here to tell you that we’re all switching to Netzero, because they offer the same service for half the price” do you suddenly realize that it’s not an AOL ad at all, but a massive and well-executed “zing”. Ouch.
I was entertained. I thought it was clever and daring. It was something, as far as I can recall, that I’d never seen before. But is it ethical? In bad taste? Or just brilliant marketing? I can’t help wondering if there’s going to be a lawsuit.