Quinnipiac, impression management online, virtual groups, persuasive industry, locative media, what is information, role of social media, ICM top 5, strategic planning, defining publics, strategic planning to nonprofits, strategic plan implementation, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Wal-mart, project management styles, future, journalism, reflections, NESN SEO, onward to Quinnipiac, A Day in My Life in Social Media, Viral Videos, Qualitative and Quantitative Analytics in my Life, social media monitoring tools, Media Convergence, Basic Web Analytics, A Crash Course in SEO, Semantic Search, Monopoly, Algorithmic Surfacing, Ambient Awareness, Polarization, Television, Participation, Physician Boundaries, Ethical Dilemmas, Charlie Hebdo, Premium Service, Spiderman, Brian Williams, Dark Patterns, Content Moderation, Big Data, Net Neutrality, Privacy and Big Data, Forgotten, Most Important Role of a Community Manager, Influencer Impact and Networks, Harrison Parrott, Content Marketing for Community Managers, Authentic Brand Voice in Social Media, Best Practices in Using Social Media for Customer Service, Highly Regulated Industries, Sabra Hummus, SWOT and PEST Analyses, Message Strategies, Communication Tactics, Program Evaluation, Continuing Program Evaluation, Strategic Campaign Plan Formatting, RPIE, Biblical Texts, Disruption, Facebook network, Qualitative and Quantitative Analytics, NESN Key Indicators, Writing Ethics, Spiderman, Wireframing, Sabra Hummus, Lonely Writer, Final Project ICM 522, reinvention,

Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM 552 – Dark Patterns in User-Oriented Design

Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM 552 Dark Patterns in User-Oriented Design

Let’s look at dark patterns in user-oriented design.

Doostang versus Amtrak: a Dark Patterns Smackdown

For Social Media Ethics class, the professor asked us to compare dark patterns, which are designs which are put together in order to trick users into clicking on something (often to sign up for something they don’t want).

Doostang and Dark Patterns

Doostang is a rather unfortunately-named jobs site, claiming to have top financial and consulting jobs. Attempt to apply for a job through them, however, and they’ll pass you to a sign-up screen. Fair enough, a lot of jobs sites require an account. But this one’s just a little bit different.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM 552 Dark Patterns in User-Oriented Design
Doostang sign up page

Instead of defaulting to selecting the free sign-up, or not selecting any of the radio buttons at all, Doostang defaults to signing its potential customers up for a $9.95 “Premium” 2-day trial.

But wait, there’s more!

The Better Business Bureau Was Not Happy About These Dark Patterns

And it doesn’t make Doostang look so good. The Better Business Bureau has quite the file on Doostang, and rates them a D-. What’s the most common complaint? Billing and collection issues. A complaint from January 21, 2014 says it best:

Complaint: I never agreed to automatic renewal or recurring payments. As can be seen in my usage history, I did not know I had a membership to this site, and never used it. At no time did I authorize recurring payments.

Desired Settlement: Please refund all monies taken after the initial payment. Please do not make me take additional action.

Business Response: Doostang is very clear in stating that all memberships are automatically renewed unless canceled. Members may cancel their subscriptions at anytime.

This is one of Dark Patterns’s classic forced continuity complaints, and it’s also a roach motel, in that it’s deceptively simple to sign up for a Premium service on Doostang, but it’s a real bear to get out of one.

Amtrak

Amtrak, like many other common carrier transportation companies, offers the user the option to purchase travel insurance. However, the option is just that, an option.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quinnipiac Assignment 08 – ICM 552 Dark Patterns in User-Oriented Design
Amtrak travel insurance purchase page

The questions about buying travel insurance are set off in a different-colored box, and you must pass through this screen and make a decision before you can pay for your ticket. But Amtrak doesn’t choose either travel insurance option for you.

Instead, you must decide, one way or the other. There’s no question that Amtrak is trying to make the buying of travel insurance seem like a smart thing to do. But Amtrak doesn’t beat the consumer over the head with numerous dubious reasons to make the purchase, and the screen is easy to understand.

Turning Doostang Away from the Dark Side

Doostang has two jobs to do, possibly three.

  1. Eliminate the preselection of anything on the sign-up page, or default to the free option. Clearly explain why a job seeker would want a Premium option. End forced continuity.
  2. Make it easy to cancel an accidentally added Premium service. Do so by adding online cancellation options and lengthening the time a consumer has before a full refund is no longer okay. Close the roach motel.
  3. (Optional) Add more free services. Currently, Doostang only allows for applying to one job under the free service. This is the job connecting to the referring URL. What if they expanded their free service, say, to that entire session, or for three job applications? A consumer just surfing in from a referral URL would never pay and, perhaps, would view more advertisements. But someone clicking around, applying to a few jobs or opening up a long session would be using more valuable materials. Complaints of not knowing they were signing up for a paid service would have a lot less credence.

Come to the light, Doostang! It’s not too late!

Tags: ,