Website owners have a variety of analytics tools handy and such tools offer them some unique insights. One of the common discoveries courtesy of analytics is that even though a website may get sufficient traffic in terms of visitors, not many of them actually engage in the website’s content thoroughly. This is usually measured in how long the visitor stays on the website and what pages of the website he or she explores.
Website owners and UI/UX designers in the past have always designed and optimized a website to attract visitors to it. But it turns out that just getting a lot of people to land on your website does not necessarily result in the kind of conversion usually sought. For that, you need your visitors to not only to land on your website, but also interact and engage with the website’s contents and features. Several reports have established that website engagement and conversion rate are directly proportional and grow together in an almost identical graph when plotted.
What is Evil Design?
With this in mind, UI/UX designers now have the added challenge of finding ways and executing them to effectively hook visitors and get them to stay on the website for as long as possible. In fact, this has given rise to a whole new specialization of UI/UX designers known as interaction designers.
The website’s intentions and its interaction designers are sometimes for the benefit of visitors. However, in majority of the cases, the intention is purely to maximize conversion for the sake of profit.
In fact, in some cases, the website by design is fine tuned to get a user to do something that benefits the company much more than it benefits the user – and hence the term ‘Evil Design’ was coined.
If you happen to spend a good amount of time on the World Wide Web, you might have a few ‘aha moments’ when you realize the two examples below are actually examples of evil design. Of course, there are several other examples, but these are a couple of the most effective implementations of the principles of Evil Design.
Online slots and pokies
Slots are a great example of both audio and visual manipulation. If you’ve played at an online casino, you may have inadvertently spent more time there than you planned to. Don’t worry, this isn’t a sign of your weakness, it is just good evil design working its magic.
Online slots, not unlike their land based counter parts, always have players feel like the next spin could be the one that wins them a life changing jackpot. It is a cheeky way to get a player to keep investing more time and money and chase that elusive victory. Furthermore, online slots also have the visual aspect where it is made to seem like the player came ever so close to hitting the jackpot – just amiss by one small missing symbol.
However, the icing on the cake is the sound effects that slots use to deliver information to the brain of users who are usually so gullible that they have no clue they are being manipulated. The sound of the spinning reels, the sound of watching that million dollar winning combo slipping away by just one place, the crowd cheering for every small win you land – these are all designed to keep you glued to your seat and eyes peeled on the reels.
Slots based on movies will often have the voices of popular characters, or popular dialogues. Scary or horror slots will have the eerie and spooky high pitched screams and laughter. Slots based on rock stars will most certainly have some of the catchiest tunes of the artist blaring away in the background to make you feel like you are in exactly the right place.
The sound effects used in slots and other examples of evil design constantly manipulates you on a psychological, psychological, cognitive and behavioral level. The average online slot player is completely oblivious to it.
Sent from my iPhone
Haven’t we all seen this at the end of an email? It’s been around for over a decade and yet people seem to like that it’s a part of their email. It makes the sender seem relevant, like part of something that is trending and popular. However, when you stop and think about it – it is merely an advertisement for the iPhone.
Remember the definition of evil design? When a design benefits the company more than it benefits the user. Sent from my iPhone is a text-book example of this. We seem to get a kick out of letting the recipients of emails know that we are iPhone owners, is there any other benefit? Well, there certainly is a huge commercial benefit for Apple.
Now that you know what evil design is in a nutshell – you are certainly going to come across other examples whenever you surf the web from now on. Just think about all the ways in which Instagram or TikTok uses evil design to keep you scrolling indefinitely. You shut it off and keep your phone away, only to pick it up a second later and open the same app again. That is evil design at work!