A lot of businesses use shady and unethical web design practices for quick wins. These practices might be good at getting your website visitors to do what you want them to do, but tricking consumers into taking action is never okay. Some common unethical website design practices include automatically adding items to your shopping cart without your consent, hidden costs, or making opting out impossibly difficult. 

Our 2021 blog on ethical website design practices goes into detail about practices to avoid and inclusive and accessible practices to consider. A year has passed, and shady website designers have only gotten more creative with their questionable design practices. Here are common dark web and unethical web design practices happening in 2022. 

Common unethical web design practices happening in 2022

A lot of the techniques being used in unethical web design have been happening for a while now, but you might be noticing that they’re gaining popularity. Some common tactics include:

  1. The “x” to exit an ad or page being too hard to see or so small that you end up clicking on something else
  2. Automatically being subscribed to newsletters without your consent when you sign up for a coupon
  3. Having a free trial automatically become a paid subscription when the trial expires
  4. Making it too difficult to unsubscribe from newsletters or other content
  5. Requiring customers to put cookies on their browser and not giving easy options to opt-out 
  6. Using guilt tactics, like including content that says “I don’t want to save money” or “I don’t want to better myself” to exit a sign-up popup

New dark pattern techniques gaining popularity

If you aren’t quite sure what dark patterns are, we put together a blog post explainer that you can read here. In short, dark patterns are design elements that purposely mislead, coerce, or confuse consumers. Some dark patterns are so harmful that laws are being made to protect consumers against these unethical web design practices. Not all unethical design practices are dark patterns, but all dark patterns are unethical design practices. In 2022, you might find the following dark patterns becoming more popular:

  1. Items ending up in your shopping basket without you putting them there
  2. Finding it difficult to unsubscribe from email lists or subscription services
  3. Being tricked into sharing your data (personal information)
  4. Ads being disguised as if they were part of the website content

Dark patterns can put both your privacy and your financial security at risk. Good web design practices are transparent and easy for users to understand.

A simple checklist to understand if your website is designed ethically

If you’re a web designer wanting to ensure you use best practices, a business owner double-checking they’ve had their website designed ethically, or just someone interested in the ethics of website design, the following questions can guide you to understanding if your website is designed ethically:

  1. Do you use manipulation in your content?
  2. Do you purposely make things complicated, both in your website copy and in the navigation of your website?
  3. Do you make it hard for people to leave your website or unsubscribe from your services? 
  4. Do you ever include dishonest information?

If you can answer “no” to all of those questions, you’re on the right track. If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, Digital Bridge is here to help. Digital Bridge is a web development and web design company based in Fitzroy, Melbourne. We can support you with all aspects of your online presence. If you want to get in touch, you can contact us at hello@digitalbridge.com.au or give us a call at +613 8658 2434.