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When Websites Won’t Take No for an Answer

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nytimes articleThe following is an excerpt from NATASHA SINGER | May 14, 2016 | Nytimes.com |

Harry Brignull, a user-experience consultant in Britain who helps websites and apps develop consumer-friendly features, has a professional bone to pick with sites that seem to maneuver people into signing up for services they might not actually want.

He even has a name for the exploitative techniques: “dark patterns.” To him, these are debased versions of the typical sign-up, sharing, shopping, checkout and download processes that are standard practice online.

“It’s a term for patterns that are manipulative, that you are doing on purpose to get one over on users,” Mr. Brignull said when I recently called him.

A few years ago, Mr. Brignull started a site called darkpatterns.org to call attention to the practices.

There’s the “sneak into basket” technique, where a retailer automatically adds products — like a magazine subscription or travel insurance — to consumers’ shopping carts and makes it hard for them to remove the unwanted items. There’s the “roach motel” or “walled-garden” technique, in which sites offer fast-and-easy sign-up processes but make it much more cumbersome for consumers to close accounts.

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