Figma Utilizes Dark Pattern to Make Profit

Deception cuts deep.

Signage upon a body of water that reads “Unstable Cliffs Stay Back”
Photo by Danne from Pexels

I love Figma. I will go ahead and say it is the best tool of the last decade. Armed with powerful APIs, impressive load times and unrivaled collaborative features I could not have asked more. It has great UI itself too and they honestly iterate on user feedback. Pushing out great updates every month. I love firing up Figma and enjoy its inviting environment. Encapsulating potential of that empty page fills me with happiness.

As a designer; UNIX philosophy has always been my go-to source when in doubt. I have used them as anchor points. This one excerpt from UNIX philosophy, in particular, is always resonating in the back of my head while I design any piece of component :

“Write programs which fail in a way that is easy to diagnose.”

This applies to more than failing. This applies to any critical action that can not easily be undone via means provided to a user. Basically, any action that can only be reversed by a super-admin or support. Usual suspects are :

  • Payments
  • Internal Transactions
  • Destructive Actions
  • Decisions that involve too many moving pieces
  • Undo Actions

I can understand and forgive when a designer unwillingly ignores these principles and somehow forges a faulty interaction. Users may fall into the pit and end up carrying out actions they did not intend to.

Figma does this on purpose and it has a name: Dark Pattern. Dark Patterns are utilized to funnel users into making a mistake that would benefit the provider. Dark pattern is legal in the face of law but not ethical. Targeting children and making it easy to spend their parents’ cash via the game’s interface would be the most abused instance.

Figma charges enterprises per editor. Editors cost 15 USD each at the time of me composing this. Viewers cost nothing. But any viewer can be given editor privileges by editors via a drop-down with absolutely no warning. I understand Figma has expansive documentation and rule sets to prevent this but again how hard it is to fire up a dialogue right there on the moment ; communicating that user is about to chalk up another 15 USD for that extra editor?

In Figma, even if you are a team member in an enterprise plan your own account is not considered a paid account. So you are limited to 3 projects in your personal account’s team. Let’s say you are running a side project with your team members which also happen to be in your enterprise team as well.

Whilst you are cooking that side project up with your teammates; despite you not giving them editor privileges at any point if you happen to move this project from your unpaid team to your enterprise team all viewers are now turned into Editors and are charged 15USD each on the spot. Why? You are overriding two preferences that cost the user without letting the user know and just with a drag and drop action.

a screenshot from Figma UI that reads “Want to make changes? Click Edit File.”
Want to make changes and be charged 15 USD to do so?

You are already a paid editor all nice and dandy and let’s assume before beta has ended you had some Figjam files. When you launch one of these files Figma now throws a question that reads : “What kind of account do you need?” and buttons are named “I am an editor” or “I am a viewer”. This is to trick an editor into thinking that “Since I am an editor, I should pick that one.” nowhere in the UI does it alert your enterprise is going to be charged when you click on that button.

Screenshot from Figma that asks what account do you need and choices are being a viewer or an editor.
I’m an editor? Aren’t i? False. Spit up another 15 peasant.

For more on dark pattern please check Arushi Jaiswal’s great piece here :

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AzerKaanDasdemir

Passionate about, Creative Writing & Fiction, UI, Software Philosophy. Enthusiastic about Flutter, TLA+, Python, Decentralized systems. / azerkaandasdemir.com