The user sets out to do one thing, but a different, undesirable thing happens instead. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book, and it is very broad in nature – many dark patterns involve some kind of bait & switch.
Example: Webwizards.net/Wordpress (June 2013)
The user is submitting a comment and the checkbox to join their newletter is pre-checked and below the submit button, which logically is a decision you would make before you reached it.
Thanks to Stacey Lane for submitting.
Example: Scribd.com (September 2010)
When Scribd.com originally launched, it was pitched as a “YouTube for documents”. The “Free” end of its original Freemium business model allowed users to upload and view documents in an unlimited capacity, making money from display advertising. All of a sudden, in September 2010, Scribd.com put a substantial chunk of user uploads behind a paywall (see Eric Goldman’s reaction: Scribd Puts My Old Uploads Behind a Paywall and Goes Onto My Shitlist). After a sizable negative public reaction, Scribd posted an apology, and changed its UI design slightly, to provide what they claim as “Clear opt-out” and “Proactive messaging”. In other words, they now provide users with a way to circumvent the paywall, if they have the patience and the ability to navigate through the site.
Scribd.com is listed as using a Bait and Switch pattern, since the grounds upon which end users are invited to upload content (“…upload your PDF, Word, and PowerPoint docs to share them with the world’s largest community of readers.” as advertised on the scribd.com homepage) are somewhat different to the reality of the situation users find themselves in after uploading.
Above you can see the page a user reaches at the end of the document upload journey. Rather than presenting any UI controls to allow the user to opt in/out at this point, they present an obscurely-worded information box, and a link to “Account settings”, which the user needs to proactively click in order reach the UI controls. The text of the information box is:-
The Scribd Archive is a program that encourages users to give back to the Scribd community by uploading their own docs in order to download older documents. Downloaders may also choose to contribute a small fee for access to The Scribd Archive if they prefer. You can remove ALL of your documents from The Scribd Archive and prevent any of your future uploads from entering The Scribd Archive by opting out of the program completely in your Account Settings.
When a new user attempts to download a file, they are asked to either upload a file first (thus increasing the size of scribd.com’s document library), or pay for access.
Example: Nike’s world cup 2010 Facebook advert (May 2010)
As reported by Paul Adams (“Hey Nike, Get your crap out of my newsfeed”), in May 2010 Nike used a rather nefarious tactic of forcing users to click “Like” in order to see a World-cup football video. As a naïve user, “Like” doesn’t quite do what you’d expect – rather than just indicating to your friends that you like something, you are actually gives that thing permission to put content into your news feed (in this case, an advertisement). Savvy users have come to understand that clicking “like” can have this effect – however, this is some distance away from a user’s initial expectation.
Clicking “like” causes this to appear in the user’s news feed.
Example: Honestly.com (May 2011)
As reported by Phil Freo (“Honestly.com not acting so honestly”). Honestly.com uses a tactic to bait unregistered users into thinking they received an anonymous review from someone in their social graph. Only after registering, “opting in” and disclosing their social graph, the user finds out there is no review.
Someone created a profile of you! Click “View your profile” to see a reviewIt goes something like this… an email is sent to a prospective user with the subject of “Someone created a profile for you…” (or similar verbiage), which leaves the impression that someone has left a public review about the user. Upon clicking the link to the user’s only option is to login with Facebook and give Honestly their Facebook info and a list of all the friends with the intention that the user will see a review. After completing the process, the user learns that there is no review.
- Login to Facebook
- Get your email address
- Try to get your email contacts
- Try to get your LinkedIn contacts
- “Like” them on Facebook. Specifically, they reveal this statement: “Review text will be available after you like us on Facebook.”
Step 5: “Review text will be available after you like us on Facebook.”
The result: no review.