darkpatterns.org defines dark patterns as designs “that are not mistakes but carefully crafted with a solid understanding of human psychology”. In other words, the action intended by the user is masked under another design layer. This is illustrated below using use-cases from three different software applications.
1) Dark – MySQL download
With enterprise and community editions, MySQL is one of the most popular database software that is used across the world. It can be used for desktop applications as well as cloud applications. Consider a user who intends to download MySQL software from dev.mysql.com/downloads and clicks on a operating system-specific download link. This prompts a new page with focus on Login or Signup options. A new user might be driven to Signup in order to download the software. However, if the user scrolls down there is a ‘No thanks, just start my download’ link which prompts the download.
2) Darker – WhatsApp’s phone number sharing with Facebook
WhatsApp is a popular social network messaging application that boasts of over 600 million active users. When WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014 its co-founder Jan Koum promised that there will be no data sharing with Facebook. WhatsApp rolled end-to-end encryption for messages in April 2016. In late fall, the organization rolled out a privacy update that shares a user’s phone number with Facebook.
read more about the key updates towards the end of the screen. Upon clicking that, an option to un-enroll from sharing the Whatsapp account information with Facebook is revealed. It is now common knowledge that most users do not read Terms and Conditions and just accept an application’s update. Facebook leverages on this and hides this action by default. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has lead in spreading this awareness.
3) Windows 10 – Privacy settings
Windows 10 drew a lot of flak for its questionable default settings. Where does the flak originate from? Consider these: it can track your location (Location services), it sends Microsoft what you write (Getting to know you), inability to turn off automatic Windows updates among other settings. The Getting to know you feature drew severe criticism for sending data to the servers in the United States prompting a call in Russia to ban the use of Windows 10 in state agencies.
Not a tech-only problem
Dark patterns in widespread services are not restricted only to software produced by technology organizations. Consider the following scenarios. Some of us read through the ingredients of a bottle of coca-cola, a cookie packet, a bread packet that are available in your local store or an hypermarket. How about that burger you buy with a hungry stomach in a local bakery or the soda you buy in the fast-food chains? None of these clearly show the implications of consuming delicious fatty foods. Research studies have consistently shown the risks of consuming high sugars. Very few stop to consider the implication of consuming such foods.
The root of some of the above dark patterns is the design of the software application (MySQL, Whatsapp or Windows 10) and the design of a package (bottle, packet) for the rest. In the case of food and beverages, a well-meaning central food and drugs administration authority can restrict the food on sale depending on the ingredients. Design, when done well, can provide useful functionality but has severe implications when ill-motivated.
Gramener was among 11 startups invited to Capgemini’s Startup Day 2016, Bangalore. The event, held on November 21, was a platform to exhibit the offerings by these enterprises before the Capgemini leadership, their Centre of Excellence teams as well as other employees. Also present were representatives from some of Capgemini’s clients. The other startups at the event operate in areas such as IoT, Blockchain services, VR, AI, Machine Learning, among others.
Gramener’s Chief Sales Officer, Mayank Kapur, made an elevator pitch to highlight key information about the firm and our portfolio. The prestigious names among Gramener’s clientele evoked an evident response from the audience.
The key part of the event was showcasing our body of work at the booth. The eye-catching video running on our screen played a big part in capturing attention of the participants. In particular, Gramener’s Trade Analytics dashboard built for India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry was very well-received.
Audience interest varied over a wide spectrum. Some among the strategic leadership were looking to explore avenues of partnership with Gramener. They were keen on understanding the possible engagement models.
On the other hand, functional unit or client account heads were looking to understand Gramener’s offerings, and how Gramener was different Qlik Sense, Tableau and Spotfire. These discussions invariably gravitated towards the richness of visuals, innovative data representations, customisation, and ability to handle large-scale data.
Another aspect that drew a positive response was the fact that Gramener’s solutions included the consulting element, and thus would be better aligned with business requirements.
The self-service abilities of other visualisation products on the market was another focus point; visitors understood how that customer segment was different from Gramener’s.
Participants with technical leanings were curious about the technology stack underlying our Gramex product. Most were surprised that this was a home-grown platform, and did not make use of R, SAS, SPSS etc. under the hood.
An event like this leaves you amazed at the extent to which innovators in India are stretch technology, and more importantly, imagination.