Designed to Deceive
Psychological engineering is generally slower and more difficult to change and measure than technological engineering. Hence we still have Push doors with Pull handles. They never just fall off their hinges or fail to open, but they do frustrate us and waste time.
Many websites are poorly designed. Government websites for example, always make it hard to find the information you're looking for. This is because there is no incentive to create a better design. You're going to pay your car tax, regardless of how frustrating and time-consuming it is.
Scam websites are often on the opposite end of the spectrum. I've seen plenty of web pages which have been perfectly designed to trick very young, very elderly, tech-illiterate and gullible people into handing over money or personal details.
Their victims cannot navigate complex sites, so scammers are incentivised to create clear and concise websites.
The landing page often features a clear call to action: "Click Here" - in bright, bold text in the centre of the page. They capture key details as quickly and efficiently as possible. They use stock photos with cheerful, competent human faces, as well as fake reviews, testimonials and accreditations to assert their credibility.
They create a sense of urgency to trick users into sending money so that they can fix their security problems, redeem a special offer, or claim their prize. An "urgent" problem gives people less time to think and act rationally. And if it only takes a few swipes and taps, they'll do it instinctively, just as they'd Pull a door with a handle, even though a sign tells them to "Push"
Over £1.2 Billion was stolen by fraud in the UK last year, and 98% of this was online, by phone or email.
Surveys suggest that 84% of people targeted by a fake shopping website engaged with it, and 47% of all targets lost money. Over 50% of total losses are accrued by over 80's.
Using proper password management along with two-factor authentication, whilst being extremely vigilant and cautious with your data online is perhaps more important than locking your car, bike or front door, or keeping your wallet in a zipped front pocket. These are non-negotiable behaviours and habits for the times we live in.
Don't fall for scams because the website is well-designed. Don't assume that your parents know the difference. Don't push the door with a handle.
Ready to waste your Tuesday morning? Check out these neat little observations on how designs - from advertising to fashion to signage - could be improved: https://jamesrobertwatson.com/ - part inspiration for this post.
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