Types and Examples

Dark patterns appear in many different forms. The following categorization distinguishes five groups according to their mode of action.

However, the classification is not to be understood conclusively. The borders between the categories and types are also partly fluid.

This group of dark patterns aims to build pressure. Users are repeatedly asked to act, they are confronted with (alleged) social norms or an (alleged) scarcity of goods. They see themselves under pressure to perform or refrain from performing a certain action.

This group of dark patterns goes beyond pressure. Users are (de facto) forced to conduct or to acquiesce an action in order to perform another.

Obstacle dark patterns try to dissuade the user from certain actions. For this purpose, they place obstacles.

This group of dark patterns imposes additional purchases of goods or services on users without them initially noticing.

For example, an additional object unintentionally ends up in the shopping cart and must be deliberately removed, otherwise, the item will be purchased.

Deception patterns use visual design to distract from relevant information or to frustrate the usual expectations of user interface design. They abuse proven or "good" design patterns to mislead users into unintended paths.

The present attempt of categorization builds on various preliminary works and amends them. Brignull was the first to describe and name twelve different "types" of dark patterns. Other authors adopted these terms which are still used today. Gray et al. refined Brignull's categorization by introducing five generic terms. Mathur et al. further build on these.