Dark Patterns Ruin Great Services

Well, duh.

A Dark Pattern is a user interface that has been carefully crafted to trick users into doing things, such as buying insurance with their purchase or signing up for recurring bills.

Tricking users isn’t a business model. You should care about your users–not just see them as money making machines of opportunity.

This extends outside of user interface and digital products — this also occurs in brick and mortar service based businesses — commonly found in globo gyms and corporate communication companies. Companies where you need to call in and cancel after listening to sales pitches or have a minimum month contract with auto billing at higher prices starting immediately after.

I signed up for a service last year, signing the contract post first experience, which was probably a mistake. I glanced over the statements of ‘Cancellation has to be in writing, email and telephone numbers aren’t excepted’. That was my fault. Previous similar services I’ve belonged to allowed cancelation via emails and personal communication. I realize that past experiences don’t dictate current or future experiences, and that each business has the ability to run itself as it deems fit.

I thought I had left the service in the beginning of this year; but I had never communicated that in writing. So, I’ve still been a member for 4 months. The auto pay card I had been using had expired in December, so I didn’t even think twice about the membership.

Until yesterday; when I got a bill for 4 months of membership, along with a copy of the contract highlighting the portions that termination needs to be in writing, $10 fee added to late payments and a few other fees. This is a service with a membership cost of $130+/month due to the 1on1 coaching, and its a great place with really really smart coaches. It has a great facility. The members are amazing. But pinging me after 4 months of inactivity with a due bill doesn’t sit well with me. Why not suspend or cancel membership after the first month? Why not call my phone? The invoice was snail mailed and addressed to me by hand; why not send a hand addressed letter, giving a heads up or warning after the first month. Why wait 4 months to let me know my membership has now been terminated and I’ve now got this bill to pay?

Even though I grew stronger, and everybody was extremely knowledge and great — it’s not a place I would recommend anyone to go to, due to this experience. I signed the contract, so its my fault for not acknowledging the nuisances of it, so I’ve paid the bill–but it’s ruined the reputation of that specific company in my perspective.

Avoiding this experience and concept should apply to your monthly subscribed digital SaaS products. If a user hasn’t used your service in the past month, you should ping them — and ask how they’re doing. Maybe they’ve outgrown your service. Maybe they’re no longer in need of your service. Maybe it was a slow month and they didn’t need your service that month, but will be using it heavily in the next month. If the user has come to the end of a relationship with your service, for whatever reason, let them cancel easily. Don’t make them pick up a phone to call someone to listen to 30 minutes of sales pitches. Don’t make them write a snail mail letter. It’s 2016, let them cancel through the interface.

They may no longer be a customer, but chances are they’ll still be a fan. And fans shout encouragement.


http://www.asktrim.com looks like a free service that helps cut down monthly subscriptions. I haven’t used it yet, but if you have — leave a comment below or find me on twitter @mkivikoski