You may think that an organization develops a website to best fit your needs. However, oftentimes the website designers focus more on what the organization wants to get out of you, instead of focusing on what you want to get out of the website. This can often negatively impact those with anxiety disorders.
Keep reading to learn about:
- Why some websites contribute feelings of anxiety to users
- How some websites take advantage of users through the use of dark patterns
- How to create a more user-friendly interface that will improve the accessibility for those with anxiety and panic disorders.
Why some website design elements contribute feelings of anxiety to users
David Swallow collected information from people with anxiety disorders from discussion forums, message boards and social media about how the UI and UX contributed feelings of anxiety and panic.
Aspects of website design that can lead to anxiety
Users felt pressured when there were persuasive notifications and time-limited transactions. These create a sense of urgency, like the users had to take action.
Liking an Instagram post from 47 weeks ago with an accidental double-tap, or having a checkbox be “Check is you DO NOT want to receives emails” instead of “Check if you DO want to receive emails” are examples of the unpredictability and inconsistency a website-user may experience that can contribute to anxiety.
Hiding key information in hard-to-reach places also impacts the anxiety of users. When information such as account-deactivation or contact details are hidden, the user feels powerless to resolve their task.
Instead of the design, sensationalism refers to content of a website that is used to provoke you at the cost of the integrity of the truth. Users found that there was a lot of fear-mongering and media bias on sites that created anxiety within them.
How some websites take advantage of users through the use of dark patterns
According to darkpatterns.org, dark patterns are deceptive tricks used in websites and apps that make you complete a task you never meant to. The task could be anything from going to an external link to giving up private information. Dark patterns are very unpredictable and often make users feel powerless.
Examples of external links
Here, the classic “download” buttons are actually advertisements to external links.
These fake download links use the same green rectangle that looks like the actual download button, utilizing the accepted symbol of the green rectangle to deceive you into clicking the wrong one.
Another example of a dark pattern is shown in an app, “Two Dots”.
The app uses the pattern of the green buttons to “pavlov” you into clicking “Buy Moves” instead of clicking the x that brings you to the next level of the game.
These examples utilized dark patterns to make users click an external link, but other uses of dark patterns have users give up private information.
Examples of releasing private information
The Norwegian Consumer Council created a report entitled Deceived by Design which highlights the dark patterns and overall exploitative measures and used by Facebook, Google, and Microsoft that nudges users to disclose as much information as possible.
This Facebook popup requires users to go into “Manage data settings” to turn off ads based on data from third parties. If the user clicks “Accept and continue”, the setting is automatically turned on. Privacy should always be the default, and here it is not.
These dark spots hide information that the user is unaware of, and it makes them feel powerless to correctly select the options they want to. Changing the options and wording of the buttons is unpredictable and inconsistent, which is why dark patterns can cause anxiety in users.
How to create a more user-friendly interface for those with anxiety
Now that you know all of the impacts that web design can have on users with anxiety as well as different types of dark patterns, let’s discuss a few good ways to improve the accessibility of a website for those with anxiety.
Stop the clock
An antidote to urgency.
To counteract the feeling of urgency, designers should never include unnecessary countdowns or time limits. At the very least, the time limits should give a reasonable amount of time for the user to complete whatever it is they’re doing.
A resolution to unpredictability.
To resolve unpredictability, make information clear and concise so that users understand what will happen next when completing a service.
Remove (or apply) friction
A remedy to powerlessness.
Removing anything that stops a user from completing a task will greatly improve their feeling of powerlessness. Removing barriers to reaching the information users seek, as well as adding confirmation pages that allow users to review their answers and change them empowers people to complete their tasks.
Keep it real
A solution for sensationalism.
It might be difficult to balance presenting difficult news without causing any unnecessary panic. There are guides that encourage writers to be responsible and truthful when conveying headlines, like the UK mental-health charity Mind which provides a guide to reporting on mental-health issues that highlights the role of overly dramatic headlines and sensationalist terms in promoting fear and anxiety.