Ben Tollady & Gareth Roberts

Melbourne, Australia

Under the influence: Exploring Dark Patterns and the power of Persuasive Design





Design is always a balance of user needs and business needs. As good designers, we strive to put the user first and make things that are usable and useful. A big part of what we want to do is help people to achieve what they need to do, avoiding pain or seeking reward.

In this talk, we will explore the idea of ’persuasive design’, where elements of cognitive psychology are employed to influence a change of user behavior, for good and evil.

We’ll begin the talk with a short story that illustrates the impact that small design decisions can have, before exploring the dark side of persuasive design — where business needs win out over user needs, and experiences are designed precisely to trick or deceive users. Making it clear that we’re not talking about just poor design (which may not be intentionally deceptive), we’ll explore what are often called “Dark patterns”. We’ll explain what they are, show examples, and discuss the moral and ethical implications of such practices.

Next, we’ll move onto the idea of persuasive design as a more ethical alternative — using elements of cognitive psychology in order to change user behavior through techniques like persuasion, social influence and the formation of habits. We’ll explore a number of great real-world examples that illustrate the good and bad of persuasive, habit-forming designs.

Lastly, we plan to leave the audience with a “call to arms”. Asking people to reflect on the work they do as designers, questioning their motives and imploring them to use the immense power they have at their fingertips for good, not evil.

This is a light hearted talk with lots of real-world examples, bouncing the content delivery between each presenter. We hope to leave people with something to think about afterwards — better educated about the influence they can have on the world and discouraged from employing “dark” practices, intentional or not.

Ben Tollady

Experience Design Director at Thirst Studios

Ben is an accomplished designer, having worked in the field of user experience and interaction design for over a decade in both the UK and Australia. His background in industrial design translates directly to his work in interaction design for the web and he firmly believes that successful interaction design revolves around simplicity and relevance. Ben has taught UX at organizations such as Education Services Australia and currently resides upon the faculty for Tractor Design School as an industry mentor for its UX program.


Gareth Roberts

Senior Experience Designer at Thirst Studios

A senior consultant in the industry, Gareth is a creative thinker, problem solver, and a lover of all things UX. With his extensive experience spanning domestically and the USA across a wide range of industries and digital products, he is a passionate user advocate and is driven to create engaging and delightful digital experiences.