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Are these designers Cheating?

The Art of Deception

Ok, now that the clickbait title and thumbnail made you click the link, let me tell you I am not here to teach you how to deceive and cheat your users. You may have seen malpractices and dark patterns all over the web in abundance. But as a designer, it is your moral responsibility to call out wrong practices and play your part to make the web a saner and honest.

The web of today is infested with dark patterns, deception and clickbaits. As someone with certain technology knowledge, it may be easy to spot a problem. But it’s quite hard for low-tech communities to navigate through the amount of deception out there. As a Cyber Security Expert, there is something we can do to help them surf a safer, honest web.

‍You won’t believe the third fact will blow your mind. Read on:

14 people are reading this blog right now.

No they’re not. That’s a lie. If you’ve visited any hotel or travel website, you may have seen how a number of people are looking at the same thing that you’re looking at and how it will magically be sold out a moment later. Scarcity is scary.

A reddit post tried to expose how this is simply an artificial function created to instill users with fear and encourage them making the purchase right away. Yes, users will buy in to scarcity, and this is a malpractice many designers use to exploit the users’ innate vulnerabilities. Booking a hotel room should not be so hard, and companies need to be more honest with their customers. It really helps build a relationship in the long term.

  • Is it an ad?
  • Is it the content?
  • Why does it matter?
  • Low-tech groups are most vulnerable to deception

A media network like a TV or radio, and the videos, content put up there were from professionals. Well, some of them are, but there also are a lot of people who rely on click-based ad as their primary source of revenue. That’s where the fake news comes from, and low-tech groups cannot tell the difference. The developers are responsible for helping fake news look real. They don’t understand technology the way we do. We as Certified Ethical Hackers, must help them understand how they interact with technology, and what’s at stake.

You could argue that businesses have been cheating customers forever. Yes, for centuries, there have been bait and switch, hidden costs, scams and every evil practice known to humans. Brands and advertisers have been deceiving customers from as early as when retail and trade became a thing. So why the web matters now?‍

‍Well, it mattered during physical retail and it matters now. It’s not something that became a problem since web became a thing. Honest designers dealt this problem their way in the past, and web designers need to deal it their way.

So sorry, there is no handbook, and cheating is wrong. You monster!

Why are you blaming the designer?

Well, designers need to take some, if not the whole blame for making interaction deceptive. Most of these decisions come from the stakeholders, agreed. But as a designer, you need to take our stance wherever you can. It’s not about revolting or going against the ask, but informing the stakeholders (product managers, clients, etc.) that wrong is wrong.

‍I believe it is the designer’s responsibility to educate and enforce honesty in the team. I’m not blaming the designers here because I know most of the time it’s not their personal decision of deceptive content design, but as Cybersecurity professionals, we need to know what’s wrong and what’s right. We can become the police of this process to prohibit dark patterns and help users navigate honestly.

I find it quite surprising that a big big problem that we face everyday in our life could have such a simple solution. It’s just one word and starts with an “h”. Yes, honesty. Just be honest with what you design, and what you’re trying to sell. It’s not that hard.‍

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