Seductive Design

Seductive designs tempt users with short-term satisfaction and exploit psychological vulnerabilities to encourage users to engage in behaviors that may not be in their long-term interests. The “effectiveness” of these patterns may also depend on the user that is experiencing them, such as their current mood or level of self-control.

It is challenging to draw the line between acceptable and harmful patterns in the seductive category. Users rarely, if ever, desire to be deceived, but they do sometimes wish to be seduced.

Examples of seductive designs include guilty pleasure recommendations that leverage recommender systems to deliver temptations and make them difficult to resist. However, users have different notions of what and when experiences count as guilty pleasures and just how much is too much. Faced with this ethical dilemma and the business incentive to maximize user time on site, it is easy for designers to set the default to “unlimited guilty pleasure.”

Designers can use A/B testing to evaluate the impact of seductive designs on user behavior, such as comparing sign-up rates for a subscription service with and without a seductive design pattern. However, the metrics for evaluating the impact of seductive designs are less clear than for deceptive designs. Quantitative measures such as screen time can be triangulated with qualitative measures of digital well-being, such as a lack of goal awareness, a lack of a sense of time and control, and a sense of regret. Innovations in technical approaches, such as tying the use of specific features within apps to qualitative measures of regret, may help designers identify when a seductive design goes too far.