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BizReport : Ecommerce archives : December 07, 2016

Big brands found using 'dark UX' methods

With consumer trust a valuable asset for a brand, is it possible that some of the biggest brands are using 'dark UX' methods to boost sales and increase revenue? Yes, it's entirely possible, according to user experience agency, Sigma.

by Helen Leggatt

'Dark UX' or 'dark user experience' is when unethical tactics are used by retailers to collect data or make money. Such practices include, but are not limited to:

- Forced Continuity - when a user takes up a free trial, but has to provide credit card details to do so and, without clear and adequate warning, their credit card is billed for the paid service once the free trial ends.

- Misdirection - when graphics or text appears to be what it isn't. For example, a red-coloured button for 'yes' or 'accept', when users expect green.

- Roach Motel - when a website, or perhaps a newsletter, subscription is hard or impossible to cancel/unsubscribe.

In recent analysis of a "handful" of big brands, Sigma discovered that, even among well-known players, "unethical methods" have been implemented. River Island was found to using a tactic whereby they prevented customers from proceeding to checkout without creating an account - their way of collecting data. Amazon was found to be using the "forced continuity" method by encouraging sign-ups to Amazon Prime without being clear that the trial would roll into a monthly fee.

Despite only investigating a few big brands, Sigma's managing director, Hilary Stephenson said she is concerned 'dark UX' "could be a common problem across the board and increasing in popularity", more so as we move into the festive season.

"Our research has really shone a light on the dark side of user experience," said Stephenson. "Brands simply shouldn't be using these unethical tactics to make more money, or collect data. UX principles exist to simplify the user journey for customers, not to trick them into unknowingly signing up to expensive subscriptions or pressuring them to let go of their personal information."

Tags: dark UX, ecommerce, user experience, UX

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