User experience (UX) designer Mary Formanek (@UXWithMary) has become a viral TikTok influencer in this regard, in particular for her series of TikTok explainer videos breaking down politicians’ campaign websites for laypersons who may not know a lot about design.
One recent series of Formanek’s videos that blew up featured her explaining the design principles behind Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign website. In these TikTok videos, Formanek describes how Trump’s campaign uses design principles in a shady way, to manipulate users into getting trapped on donation pages and accidentally donating more money than they might intend. As Formanek explains, this practice — of using design psychology to obfuscate and manipulate rather than illuminate — is known as “dark UX” within the field.
While UX designers are trained to be on the side of the user, there are ways that the user experience can be manipulated to be in favor of the “product” — in this case, a candidate. When it comes to Trump’s re-election campaign website, this translates into an unscrupulous, even ill-intentioned user experience. Formanek broke down how this worked in an interview with Salon; as always, this interview has been edited for clarity and length.