Deceptive patterns

Deceptive patterns—also known as deceptive design patterns—are interfaces designed to subtly trick you into doing a task you otherwise normally wouldn’t do.


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Types of deceptive patterns

  • Forced continuity: This is a common tactic that happens to most people. A company offers a free trial to a subscription service, but you must provide your credit/debit card information. After your free trial ends, the company continues to bill you. 

To continue charging you without your knowledge, companies don't inform you about payment dates or provide a convenient way to cancel the subscription.

  • Roach motel: In this circumstance, companies make signing up for a service—usually a subscription service—incredibly easy, but the process of leaving is difficult and confusing. 

Companies will either make the unsubscribe button too tiny for one to view or have users call a customer service representative to unsubscribe.

  • Misdirection: Companies will lead users into committing a task that’s of the company’s interest to deter users from another action. One way companies accomplish this is by making the “Buy” button larger than the “Not buy” button if a company wants you to purchase a product. 

How companies can avoid deceptive patterns

In some cases, web designers may not intentionally seek to confuse or manipulate their customers. But sometimes, it happens. Maybe, you want users to purchase a specific product or to stay subscribed to your company, and you accidentally end up misleading your customer into a situation. 

To prevent deceptive patterns, be upfront and direct with your customer. Always provide clear messaging about how users can cancel a subscription they signed up to. Don’t mislead your users into clicking a button that’s beneficial to you, but rather provide them with options that hold equal weight. 

To maintain trust with your customer, remember what’s best for you isn’t always what’s best for them. Lead with clear wording and don’t confuse customers to ensure a satisfactional customer experience.