Great talk on dark patterns

Harry Brignull, curator of Dark Patterns, shares notes of his excellent talk The Slippery Slope.

There’s a lot to like in here. What surprised me what Brignull’s observation that dark patterns are often done for a good reason. In one example a person was hired to simply say “hello” to people waiting in line so that their wait time was decreased. And it worked…hold times were decreased if you look strictly at the time between someone arrives and when they are spoken to. Brignull concludes: “They hit their targets – they did their jobs – and it looked good on paper; but in reality they created a cheaper, nastier experience.”

I’ve seen this before, too. Immediately measured metrics (like hold time) get more attention than long-term satisfaction (like whether customers are happy with the service). This is because they’re so much easier to measure and take action on. It’s a hard discussion to have to say “Well, the hello nurse certainly met our goal of dropping wait times, but now we need to add another metric called “time till seen by doctor” because people are still angry at sitting in the office for an hour before being seen by a doctor. Additionally, it might not even bubble up to the powers that be that this hack is going on…they might only see a spreadsheet of numbers each month and not realize that the hello nurse isn’t really getting people treated faster.

My hunch is that many businesses have similar short-term metrics that can be hacked using a dark pattern. The question is…are they paying enough attention to notice?

Read the whole presentation, it’s here: The slippery slope.

Published: July 24th, 2013

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