Using Design Psychology for Good and Evil - IGNITE UXPA 2014


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This was part of an IGNITE session at UXPA 2014 in London, called "Super Heroes and Super Villains: Using Design Psychology for Good (and Evil)". I describe a website where users are deceptively encouraged to sign up for junk mail using several dark patterns, and the company sponsoring the website makes money off of every sign up.

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  • My name is Susan Mercer and I’m dressed as a SuperVillain today to tell you a true story of Using Design Psychology for Evil.
    We’ll see the Evil Villain, Their Perfect Victim, and the tricks that they use to deceptively make money off of them.
  • I may be an evil SuperVillain, but that’s not Evil enough for what I’m going to share with you today.
    I’m going to talk to you about something done by an even more heinous villain – a US corporation!
  • The first thing that every Super Villain needs is a victim. This corporation found The Perfect Victim – US Teenagers!
    Specifically, college-bound HS students.
  • So, what is so perfect about them? They are eager to do anything that might get them into college
    They are very cavalier with technology and sharing information online.
  • And, as seniors, all they do is anticipate that day that they graduate…and eventually go to University.
    Where hopefully they’ll become smart enough to avoid evil design psychology tricks.
  • But, University is expensive in the US, so they are desperate for money.
    They are so desperate, that they will do just about anything for it – including trying to grow it themselves.
  • So what did our Evil corporation do? They created fastweb! A website to match students with scholarships
    But as you will see, it is really an evil spider web to catch unsuspecting students at every turn and make money off of them.
  • Sounds great, doesn’t it? Fastweb will solve ALL of your college money problems. Just look at all of the money that these kids have received.
    This is known as Social Proof – by showing others that were “successful” in finding free money, it makes the user think that they will be too.
  • And this site must be trustworthy, all of the positive press they received – AND they have the TRUSTe logo.
    But no! What looks like the standard terms and conditions checkbox is really a TRICK QUESTION which says „Spam me” with tons of email offers.
  • You click Continue, and there is more evil lurking around the corner. The site disguises a request for information form for a for-profit university as part of the application process. Using this Disguised Ad, and Misdirection, they make you think you’re still applying for scholarships, when you are really asking for more spam.
  • And the second page of the “real” application form even has two ads built into it. The advertisers pay the Evil Corporation for each signup, so the more poor users they dupe into checking the boxes, the more money the Evil Corporation makes!
  • Clicking page 2 of the ‘real” application form shows even more ads! Muahahahaha…the Evil Corporation is sneaking in as many as they can!
  • Finally….the user is almost done with signing up for scholarships. Just one final step to finish their profile to get matched to even more scholarships!
  • And that final step is…ANOTHER AD!!! Very Evil! Trés mauvais! Sehr Böse! Muy Mal! Muahahahaha….
  • Finally, the user makes it through the Evil slalom course known as the signup process and they can see the list of scholarships. Wow, $7,500 for this one scholarship – I have to find out about this one!
  • Great scholarship – No minimum GPA. No essay required. Easy money – All I have to do is give them the phone numbers of 6 of my friends. Why not? That’s got to be worth $7,500.
  • So what is the result of this Evil mine field of marketing data farming?
    Sad teenagers with lots of junk mail, and an Evil US corporation with lots of money
  • No one wants to see sad teenagers. As UX designers, we need to help our corporations see their evil ways and strive to find solutions that aren’t quite so evil.
  • So, I don’t want to see you be an Evil Super Villain like me….I’d rather see you be....Wonder Woman!
  • So, I don’t want to see you be an Evil Super Villain like me….I’d rather see you be....Wonder Woman!
  • Using Design Psychology for Good and Evil - IGNITE UXPA 2014

    1. 1. 2014 Using Design Psychology for Evil Susan Mercer, Mad*Pow @susanamercer
    2. 2. @susanamercer @MadPow The Evil Villains Evil Woman Evil US Corporation
    3. 3. @susanamercer @MadPow The Perfect Victim
    4. 4. @susanamercer @MadPow Eager Cavalier with technology
    5. 5. @susanamercer @MadPow Anticipating
    6. 6. @susanamercer @MadPow Desperate
    7. 7. @susanamercer @MadPow Scholarships!
    8. 8. @susanamercer @MadPow Evil Trap Social ProofSocial Proof
    9. 9. @susanamercer @MadPow Application – Step 1 “Trust Me”“Trust Me” “Spam Me” Trick Question “Spam Me” Trick Question
    10. 10. @susanamercer @MadPow Application – Step 1 MisdirectionMisdirection Disguised AdDisguised Ad Looks like App form Looks like App form
    11. 11. @susanamercer @MadPow Application – Step 2 More ads = More $$$ For Evil Corporation More ads = More $$$ For Evil Corporation
    12. 12. @susanamercer @MadPow Application – Step 3 More Evil Ads!More Evil Ads!
    13. 13. @susanamercer @MadPow Application – Step 4 Final StepFinal Step
    14. 14. @susanamercer @MadPow Application – Step 4 Another $!@% AdAnother $!@% Ad
    15. 15. @susanamercer @MadPow Scholarship List Hey $7,500!Hey $7,500!
    16. 16. @susanamercer @MadPow Scholarship Details Friend SpamFriend Spam
    17. 17. @susanamercer @MadPow Result
    18. 18. @susanamercer @MadPow Moral of the Story
    19. 19. @susanamercer @MadPow Be Good, Not Evil Wonder WomanEvil Woman 
    20. 20. @susanamercer @MadPow Be Good, Not Evil Wonder WomanEvil Woman 
    21. 21. @susanamercer @MadPow References and Photo Credits • Names of Patterns: • Screenshots: • Photo Credits: • PPG Place: • HS Classroom: • Teen with Art: • Teen texting: • Purple & white gowns: • University of Chicago Campus: • One Thousand Dollars: • $20 in plant pots: • Junk mail: • Sad Teen: • One Million Dollars: • Wonder Woman: