Tag Archives: dark patterns

Adwords listings visual change: spot the ad!

Google Adwords ads have always been, shall we say, visually subtle. Their motivation for doing this is obvious enough. This is Dark Patterns 101.

Well Google just changed the visual layout of their results pages again, and now, the top-ranking (centre-column) ads are near-indistinguishable from organic results.

New ad format:

The new ad format. PPC and organic listings blended into one big e-mush.


… compared with the old ad format (for the same search query):

The old ad format. Ads much more distinguishable from organic listings.
The old ad format. Ads much more distinguishable from organic listings.

 What this means for you:

  • Paid listings are even more likely to be mistaken for organic listings. So whatever is at the top of the page, wins.
  • Competitor ads appearing for searches on your brand name (above your #1 organic listing) are likely to be mistaken for your organic listing.

The inevitable, painful-to-type recommendations are:

  • Organic listings have been rendered less effective, so it’s less feasible to rely solely on them.
  • Ignoring PPC altogether is now less feasible.
  • You really need to bid on your brand terms now (a common past bone of contention – this latest change seals it).

Do no evil, eh?

Darkpatterns.org: knights of the web

Have you ever been incensed by a piece of web design which is not only bad, but seems to be purposely so? Typical examples could include:

Near-invisible ‘unsubscribe’ links for  newsletters
Extra fees which only reveal themselves at the very last stage of a lengthy checkout process
• Option to install a useless toolbar during a software installation, which you accidentally select while tapping next, next, next (because the install chekbox is pre-selected).

Continue reading Darkpatterns.org: knights of the web

The darker side of ‘simplicity’

Simplicity is something we are told to strive for as designers.

It’s a near-religious doctrine: don’t make the user think. Remove all un-necessary elements. Make it as easy as possible for users to complete their tasks.

This is a powerful argument because it is itself simple. It appeals to our natural tendency to see the world in black & white: simple good; complex bad. But could simple sometimes be bad?

Continue reading The darker side of ‘simplicity’