Unmasking the 11 Deceptive Patterns in UX Design: A Comprehensive Guide

In the realm of UX design, our primary objective is to create experiences that are intuitive, user-friendly, and transparent. Unfortunately, there’s a shadowy side to our profession that involves deceptive patterns. These design tactics aim to lead users into unintended actions, often for the benefit of businesses but at the expense of users’ trust and satisfaction.

Back in 2010, UX specialist Harry Brignull unveiled these misleading practices to the world. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at each of the 11 deceptive patterns identified by Brignull, shedding light on their mechanics and highlighting the importance of avoiding them in ethical UX design.

**1. Sneak into Basket: Imagine you’re about to make an online purchase, and you reach the checkout page, only to find that additional items or services have been surreptitiously added to your cart. This pattern forces users to remove unwanted items manually, creating a frustrating experience. To counteract this, designers should ensure that no boxes are pre-selected, leaving users in control of their choices.

**2. Hidden Costs: In this deceptive pattern, users believe they are paying a certain amount for a product or service, only to discover additional fees at the final checkout stage. These undisclosed charges can lead to abandoned carts and erode trust. To avoid hidden costs, provide transparent pricing information upfront and offer tools like calculators for users to estimate extra expenses.

**3. Forced Continuity: Users sign up for a free trial, thinking there are no strings attached, only to realize later that their credit card has been charged without warning. To counter this unethical practice, designers should notify users before their free trial ends, make cancellation straightforward, and provide clear links for the cancellation process.

**4. Confirmshaming: Confirmshaming attempts to manipulate users by making them feel guilty when opting out of something. For example, using language that implies the user doesn’t care about the environment for declining a newsletter subscription. Designers should carefully choose their words on buttons and confirmation screens to avoid emotional manipulation.

**5. Urgency: This deceptive pattern creates a false sense of urgency to rush users into making a purchase. Limited-time offers and countdown timers pressure users to decide quickly. While urgency can be legitimate, it should be used sparingly to avoid overwhelming users.

**6. Scarcity: Scarcity tactics emphasize the limited availability of a product, compelling users to buy before it’s too late. For instance, websites claim there are only a few items left in stock. Designers should consider whether such tactics inform users of product availability or manipulate them into impulse purchases.

**7. Misdirection: Misdirection deceives users by leading them down a different path than expected. For instance, an unsubscribe button might take users to a page designed to convince them to stay. To maintain trust, designers should ensure that user actions lead to the expected outcomes.

**8. Disguised Ads: Deceptive patterns sometimes involve blending advertisements with genuine content, making it challenging for users to distinguish between the two. To maintain transparency, designers should clearly differentiate ads from content.

**9. Bait and Switch: This pattern involves promoting one thing and delivering another. For example, a website may advertise a product at a great price, only to redirect users to a higher-priced alternative. Designers should ensure that advertised content matches the delivered experience.

**10. Privacy Zuckering: Named after Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, this pattern involves confusing language or manipulative design to trick users into sharing more information than they intended. Designers should prioritize user consent and make privacy settings clear and user-friendly.

**11. Roach Motel: In this pattern, users can easily sign up for a service but face significant hurdles when trying to cancel or unsubscribe. To ensure ethical practices, designers should make it as easy to leave a service as it is to join.


Understanding these 11 deceptive patterns is crucial for UX designers. Recognizing them allows us to steer clear of unethical practices and maintain our users’ trust and satisfaction. In the ever-evolving world of UX design, ethical considerations should always be at the forefront, guiding our choices to create positive and transparent user experiences. By avoiding these deceptive patterns, we can contribute to a more trustworthy and user-centric digital landscape.