A Brief Introduction – Impact of design on Advertisements

Manoj kumar | 30th March 2019

Advertising is a necessary evil, which means designers are constantly trying to find ways that force you into viewing and clicking on links to the sponsors’ and advertisers’ links. For example, when a user signs into their Google mail account the first messages that greet them, when they choose the ‘promotions’ option, are sponsored advertisements; arranged above any of the emails from any other source you might have actually elected to receive mail from or that might be directly relevant on the basis of websites you have previously used, such as Amazon.

Why is this classed as a dark pattern?

Google are prioritizing the contents of YOUR email account on the basis of what serves THEM best. Instead of inserting the advertisements among the emails you have received from other people, companies, businesses or websites, they are given pride of place at the very top of your message list. Whilst Google kindly (Irony alert) place the sponsored ads in the promotions tab, rather in your primary or social tabs – where the majority of the most important and relevant correspondence emails are sent – the messages are made to appear like all other emails; tricking you into thinking it is just another promotion from an outside party.

Google collects information from your email messages so they can make their advertisements more and more relevant to the interests you pursue and the activities you undertake. For example, you might be planning a short break in Europe and within hours you will receive a sponsored advertisement from a holiday planning website, such as Thomas Cook. Google might give you the impression that providing ever more relevant advertisements benefits you, but they are merely trying to perfect their method of spamming your promotions account. By using information from the sponsored links you reject and those you select, Google can improve the economy of advertisements to successful conversions (i.e. websites you visit and make purchases on), which increases their advertising revenue.

In slight defence of Google, the sponsored advertisements are distinguished from the other promotion emails, with the addition of the word ‘Ads’ under each message and some slight colour difference (as you can see). However, the designers have also switched the delete/close function to the right-hand side; unlike all other emails, which have a checkbox on the left-hand side, thus circumventing the user’s automatic approach to deleting messages and making their job harder. Therefore, Google have adapted the sponsored advertisements so they are eye-catching and force the user to consciously engage with the display in order to work out how to clear the sponsored advertisements.


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Manoj kumar

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