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The frustrations of moving to Axure 8, dark patterns and failure to provide custom user experience

I’m an Axure user for over 5 years. I feel like a semi-power user, and while I also work with alternatives to axure, like Sketch, Balsamiq or UXpin. When I heard Axure 8 was out, I decided to get it right away. What should have been a walk in the park turned out to be pretty frustrating. While telling this story, we’re going to look at how important it can be to provide custom user experience, and how using dark patterns does not help your conversion.

Updating from the App is not possible

My first reaction when reading Axure 8 was out of beta, I decided to update the app. Nowadays, mot apps allow to update through the app, and I was surprised that I didn’t get the message last time I launched Axure, since I’m used to my windows 7 nagging me about moving on to windows 10.

I started up Axure 7, clicked on check for updates, and…. nada. axure 7 is up to date. If I hadn’t read it online, I definitely wouldn’t have known 8 was out. So I decided to go the long way and get it through the website, fearing I’d have to go through the troublesome give-your-email-to-get-the-trial-then-install-and-register process.

Updating through the site is a pain

I didn’t really feel like completing the trial form, and was pleasantly surprised to see there was an entry just for me to upgrade to Axure 8. Seeing exactly the same form, but less pleasantly presented after clicking was a bit disappointing, but I didn’t pay much attention to it, filled in my email, clicked Mac.

Damn, I forgot to uncheck the newsletter subscription

Worse than that, going back to the site later to take a screenshot, I saw the inline label on the email field saying “OPTIONNAL”. Double headshot. It made sense to me to give my email so Axure could check that I am actually a client and authorized to upgrade for free. To see it was optional only proved to me it was ONLY to get me to sign up for the mailing.

The funny part is that, just like social psychology teachers get trapped in the same manipulation techniques they teach about during their holidays, as a web designer, I get trapped in the same dark patterns as I fight against for my users by displaying the same behaviour as them when being in their position. I’m like any other user online, and this proves it: I don’t read, I skip over the content and behave based on my habits and expectations, not on what the site tells me.

Minutes later : unsubscribing

I received the welcome to the newsletter email from Axure. I skipped over the content. I barely had time to notice the kind of content in the mailing: “Getting started” seemed inappropriate for someone upgrading to a newer version, “What’s new?” would have made more sense.

Seriously? Dudes, I’m a power user, at least tell me welcome to the new Axure, discover new features, etc. I’m far from getting started, and technically I already know the basics of the new features since I tried the beta… But for other users who upgrade to Axure 8, even non power users, if they went through the trouble of going into the upgrade tab of the site, they will probably expect to be treated differently as well.

Since the Axure team went through the trouble of duplicating the form and add a “dark pattern” to get existing clients to sign up to a newsletter, they might at least have sent custom content to match their experience of their products, and make them feel good about themselves, by being part of the community.

After this brief negative experience, I clicked on unsubscribe so I wouldn’t get the newsletters anyway.

Outcomes (or should I say Aftermath) of the trick

  • Signup rate to the mailing lists? Possibly 100%
  • Unsubscribe rate after opening first mailing? Likely 50%
  • People who actually read the newsletters? Probably none
  • Number of users who had a (mildly) bad experience upgrading to Axure 8 ? All of them, either because of the use of dark pattern, the lack of customised communication or even simply because the easiest way to upgrade, using the app, isn’t offered and is completely out of date : updating without going through the site per se.

Things to remember : dark patterns harm your brand’s image

What are the takeaways from this story about upgrading to Axure 8 for the projects you might prototype on Axure?

If you have trouble signing existing clients up to your mailings, tricking people into it won’t solve your problem, but it will have 3 negative results:

  • getting the software update takes more steps and is more complex
  • your existing user base will be frustrated, and regardless if the dark pattern was voluntary or not, users will have a negative experience with your brand, even more so when the mailing isn’t customised to their needs and level of experience
  • you won’t actually get more people to read your newsletter and I’m not even sure  you will have more subscribers users in the end because they’re likely to unsubscribe right away

 

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