Web Design Tricks to Deceive Us

Most websites have the objective to keep you coming back, but unfortunately many use deceptive tricks to get you to do it - something we refuse to do. These sites tend to use tricky color schemes, mazes, sneaky designs and confusing language. There purpose is to influence your behavior into a direction that benefits primarily them. Here are some examples:

  • A 'No thanks' button that is very light in color, but a 'Sign me up' button that is very bright.
  • Boxes that are pre-checked, making git unclear if you are opting in or opting out if you uncheck it.
  • A site that has so many buttons, you're bound to click on one of them.
  • A graphic that has an X-out box that doesn't work, just redirects you to different webpage.
  • Buried opt-out explanations buried in the terms and conditions fine print.
  • Using double negatives like Do not uncheck this box if you want to keep receiving emails from us.
  • Making it hard to close an account, like listing reason you should't instead of just doing it.
  • Using words that make it unclear what you're choosing.

When you visit an e-commerce site, you know you are going to sold items, but some sites use down-right slimy techniques to get you to buy. Here are some you should look out for:

  • Fake customers: Some sites create fake customers to give the appearance that people are actively shopping there. They give 'reviews' about how great the products are and give them five stars. If we have spent anytime on the web, most of us have probably boughten something that looked good, but ended up being sub-par.
  • Cart sneaking: Some sites also sneak items into your shopping cart, just like kids slipping in cookies to your grocery cart. It might be a warranty or protection plan which are easy to miss during the check out process.
  • Confirmshaming: These sites try to guilt or shame you into opting in. If you decline, they'll show you a message like: You must be part of the l'll pay more club or No thanks, I already know everything there is to know.
  • Forced continuity: These sites offer you a subscription to a limited trial, which is tempting. But to get that special $1 trial, you have to hand over your credit card information hoping you will forget when the trial is over so they can go ahead and automatically charge you.

One of the things I hate the most are when you have to go through an obstacle course during a software installation. They make you click through a series of windows that don't have anything to do with installing the software. There only purpose is to get you to install extra trials of other software or 'toolbars'. The language is often confusing, making the bonus software sound essential, but in truth just get people to buy things they don't need or want. And it you do fall for it, they make it very hard to uninstall them.

Then there is the 'roach motel'. It is called this it opts you in and makes it nearly impossible to leave. If you've ever gone around and around trying to downgrade from a premium-level account or found it took a lot of effort to close/cancel an account because the instructions were buried or you had to chat, verify, and verify again - you've been to a roach motel. And it is not just subscription or e-commerce sites that use this technique. Election campaign fundraising firms from both political parties are guilty, as you will find pre-checked boxes to get recurring donations from many unsuspecting supporters.

People use these techniques because they work. There focus is on their bottom line and they could less about yours. But, there is some hope about at least slowing this trend down. State governments are also beginning to enact legislation to protect consumers. California added language to their Consumer Privacy Act to address the use of misleading practices when getting individuals' consent for data collection. They prohibit companies from burdening consumers with confusing language or unnecessary steps such as multiple screens or listen to reasons why they shouldn't opt out.

The Federal Trade Commission is also beginning to take a look at these practices. At the end of the day, it is up to us to educate ourselves and just refuse to do business with any firm that uses these practices.


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