Feb 2 | 2021

UX Dark Pattern of the Week: Space NK

by Dave Robertson

There are of course many ways that we can help a user make the right decision when making a choice within a website or app, but something I’ve been following over the last few years is a concept called ‘Dark Patterns’; that is, UX patterns that are intended to deceive the user, rather than help them make an informed decision. I find these interesting because they’re sort of the ‘dark side’ of UX and web design. We tend to come at most website interactions trusting, especially if it’s a big brand retailer. But these patterns are actually there to manipulate and catch us out. I feel like it’s worth calling them out so that there’s more awareness of what’s going on, and users can make the decision that’s right for them, rather than the retailer.

This week’s dark pattern comes to us courtesy of high end cosmetics and perfume retailer SpaceNK, and this interaction happens at checkout.

space nk dark pattern

There are three stages:

  1. The default stage. The user is promoted to click on a link to opt out of receiving marketing from SpaceNK.
  2. The actual opt-out stage. The user must untick each of the three checkboxes to opt out from the various categories of marketing.
  3. The complete form. This is what the user needs to do to avoid receiving any marketing.

There are a few things wrong with this workflow, and here are the reasons why I’m calling this a dark pattern.

  1. The user has to click on a link to show the opt-in/opt-out checkboxes. This is obfuscation, because there’s no clear reason to hide them; they don’t take up much space. The link is also part of a block of text at a small font size, which means it’s not particularly easy to see when scanning through the page.
  2. The wording on the link suggests that by clicking it, the user can opt out of all marketing. However that isn’t the case; the user must untick each of the checkboxes that appear. And the checkboxes are all ticked by default. Not particularly surprising, but still, websites shouldn’t opt people in to anything by default.
  3. The user must be careful to avoid ticking the fourth checkbox underneath, which will actually opt them into receiving marketing from other sources. This is misleading because it’s always best practice to make UI elements consistent in what they do whenever possible, but here we have a ticked = positive response, which is inconsistent with the other boxes.

I’m sure that a decision has been made here that SpaceNK needs to build their marketing database, and that’s perfectly understandable from a business point of view. But it’s not a great way of doing it, and as a user I’d prefer to have seen checkboxes that were exposed to begin with, opted out by default, and set up to behave consistently.

« Back to Blog
© Dave Robertson 2024 Hand-built with VS Code, Bootstrap and WordPress Acknowledgements