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We’ve all been there. You sign up for some web service, and could have sworn you unchecked the box to receive promotions by e-mail. But sure enough, your inbox is being swarmed with daily, unwanted messages just a couple days later. Are you sure you declined to receive those e-mails, or was that check box playing tricks on you?

Harry Brignull, a user experience designer and consultant, has put together a great post showing all the ways that websites try to dupe you into signing up for things you don’t want. He refers to these manipulative techniques as “Dark Patterns,” and he actually has an entire website dedicated to naming and shaming the offenders.

The blog post does a fine job of encapsulating the idea, allowing you to seethe as you scroll through example after example of shady sign-up forms. We see companies automatically enrolling people in expensive membership programs, refusing to let them escape without filling out a detailed explanation form and using double negatives to ensnare people in e-mail marketing.

Brignull sums it up:

At the end of the day, you should evaluate what you really want from your customers. Do you just want them to just use your service, or do you want more?

Personally I think usage alone is cheap. A good brand is liked. A great brand is loved and respected. I hope that today I’ve shown you’ll never reach that point if you use Dark Patterns.

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