The 7 sins of Evil UXD

The 7 sins of Evil UXD

UX Design as we understand is a science to make technology easy, better and to improve relationship with brands, by understanding users’ psychology. Just like a trusted friend, UX Design undoubtedly is like a protagonist who is virtuous and is always user-centric. Like they say, every protagonist is incomplete without a antagonist, in this case its the the evil twin of UX- The evil UXD.  In this blog, let’s have a look at the antagonist of UX, where UX design is drawn towards the darker side to use the very virtuous UX heuristics for evil intents and manipulation.

What is Evil UXD?

The prime objective of Evil UXD is to make the users spend time, clicks or money in one way or other by manipulative tricks and guile; all to the brand’s advantage directly or indirectly. These patterns in interfaces are deliberately designed to trick users into doing an action or restrain from a certain action, for the advantage of the brand. It could be a simple logout button which is unnecessarily hidden in menus, or it could even be a simple expendable product sneaking in your shopping cart without your knowledge. As many deceiving ways it may come in, the Evil UXD is not user-centric, but brand’s profit-centric.

The Craft of Evil UXD

But being pure evil is easy, but it can be sensed by the users easily too; And for taking advantage of the users’ weaknesses, it is the brand that is eventually hated and abandoned. In many deliberate efforts to be evil by brands for playing nasty tricks on users, (thanks to bodies like the European Union) the websites can get lawfully banned and penalized. The real craft of Evil UXD lies in making these traps look like genuine UX flaws, and not get penalised or hated.

The gray area in the picture above is what we will be discussing today. It needs technique to manipulate the users right under their noses, and elegantly able to get away with. When these tricks get unnoticed or seen as too small to complain; In either case, the brand reaps the advantage.

Seven sins of Evil UXD

To understand any evil it is important to understand the rationale or need behind it. All the tricks and deeds ultimately connect to these seven sins below, which eventually translates to brand’s advantage in one way or the other…

1. To make user spend more time on a site/to click/to visit
2. To increase/save users against their choice to quit
3. Marketing through spams, subscriptions and user base
4. By selling the products to the users by guile
5. To get constant connection to user by their software/app installation, and even to spy on your personal information
6. To avoid/save on support
7. To increase dependency on their product and beat competition

Dark patterns- The Acts of Evil UXD

The acts are the tricks which lead to Evil UXD sins. These tricky elements in the interface are called the dark patterns.These patterns are what we encounter everyday, but do not realise that these are taking advantage of every second and thought we spend in them, in ways we can’t even imagine. have organised and grouped these patterns thoughtfully which are listed below..

1. Bait and Switch
The user sets out to do one thing, but a different, undesirable thing happens instead. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book, and it is very broad in nature – many dark patterns involve some kind of bait & switch.

2. Disguised Ads
Adverts that are disguised as other kinds of content or navigation, in order to get users to click on them.

3. Faraway Bill
Utility companies traditionally sent out monthly bills by snail mail, but today they tend to put them online – leading to bills that are rarely seen and easily forgotten. How you receive your bills is framed by companies as a choice between “offline” and “online”, but is in fact also a decision of “push” versus “pull”. With snail mail bills, you received a detailed breakdown each month. With online bills, few companies will email you the detailed breakdown, citing security concerns. Instead, you have to remember to log in, then go through the tedious process of navigating to your most recent bill. As a result, a certain proportion of people just don’t bother – and as a result they forget about the costs of the service, and aren’t able to react unexpected additions to the bill.

4. Forced Continuity
The user signs up for a free trial on a website, and in doing so they are required to enter their credit card details. When the trial comes to an end, they automatically start getting billed for the paid service. The user is not given an adequate reminder, nor are they given an easy and rapid way of cancelling the automatic renewal. Sometimes this is combined with the Sneak into Basket dark pattern (as alleged in the Vistaprint class action lawsuit.). This dark pattern was previously known as “Silent Credit Card Roll-over” but was renamed since the term “forced continuity” is already popularly used in Marketing.

5. Forced Disclosure
In return for a free or low-cost action, the site requires the user to disclose extensive personal information – unnecessary to the transaction in-hand.

6. Friend Spam
A site or game asks for your Twitter or email credentials (either via the password antipattern or via OAuth for an allegedly benign purpose e.g. finding friends who are already using that service), but then goes on to publish content or send out bulk messages using your account – i.e. from you. This technique is commonly used by viruses – but even well-known companies sometimes engage in “friend spam”.

7.Hidden Costs
A hidden cost occurs when a user gets to the last step of the checkout process, only to discover some unexpected charges have appeared, e.g. delivery charges, tax, etc.

8. Misdirection
The attention of the user is focused on one thing in order to distract its attention from another.

9.Price Comparison Prevention
The attention of the user is focused on one thing in order to distract its attention from another.

10. Privacy Zuckering
“The act of creating deliberately confusing jargon and user-interfaces which trick your users into sharing more info about themselves than they really want to.” (As defined by the EFF). The term “Zuckering” was suggested in an EFF article by Tim Jones on Facebook’s “Evil Interfaces”. It is, of course, named after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

11. Roach Motel
The “Roach Motel” is a broad category of Dark Pattern that subsumes most types listed on this site. Put simply, a Roach Motel makes it very easy for a user to get into a certain situation, but then makes it hard for them to get out of it when they realize it is undesirable. Email newsletter unsubscription is a well known example – whereby it is typically easy to subscribe, but much more effort is needed to unsubscribe. The revised CAN-SPAM 2008 rules state that this practice is forbidden for emails that have a primary purpose “to advertise or promote a commercial product or service”. (Unfortunately, CAN-SPAM does not cover “transactional or relationship” messages.)

12. Road Block
When the user’s progress to task completion is restricted or stopped by something else on the screen.

13. Sneak into Basket
The user attempts to purchase a specific item. However, somewhere in the purchasing journey the site sneaks an additional item into their basket, often through the use of an opt-out radio button or checkbox on a prior page.

14. Trick Questions
The user is required to respond to a question (typically in the checkout process), which, when glanced upon quickly appears to ask one thing, but if read carefully, asks another thing entirely. This pattern works because it is normal for users to employ high-speed scan-reading on the web – see Steve Krug: ”We don’t read pages. We scan them.“)


My attempt at being Evil

I have also tried out a dark pattern in a recent project at Decos. We designed an app to collect response whether the trash has been picked everyday, from citizens of Nagpur.  Its a simple one page interface designed such that the user need not have to open the app everyday. The app simply pop ups the question “Is your garbage picked today?” in the notifications every day before noon. As simple as that….



It was made clear that the stakeholders are expecting an app-response above 70% from the users everyday. I sensed that there is a high chance of the app notification getting ignored, because of more important things in the citizen’s life other than trash. So I tried tweaking the design with a dark pattern to have automated responses, in the cases where the users do not bother to respond to our notification. I tried to play in the grey area to let the user know the countdown for the automatic response, and presented to the marketing and management team.



The team shot the idea down, because it was too risky to jeopardise our company’s credibility and reputation that Decos have. I say, thats a good judicious call… But for me, I got the kicks out of being evil for a while.

With great (UXD) power comes great responsibility. If UXD is like a superpower, its up to the designer to choose what he uses them for. As a UX designer who is a Deadpool fan, I adore the smart craft of Evil UXD and find designing it challenging and exciting. I personally feel that it is ok to use the super-powers to my advantage once a while. But, things get different when you are designing for an organisation. Your risks become the organisation’s and vice-versa. But always remember, evil could never conquer anything concrete. Bob Marley once said “You can fool some people some time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”, so be judicious.

So the next time you do not get to figure out your way in an interface, get stuck or get irritated finding something… Watch out! you might be a target for Evil UXD.

Let me know what you think…

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Vivek Anand

Vivek Anand

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By Daniele Zedda • 18 February


By Daniele Zedda • 18 February

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