The Dark Patterns of McDonald’s France (Photos)

I'm not really lovin' it.

The kiosk ordering system in McDonald’s France appears to be the result of a combination of confusing and evil design decisions.

Step 1. Fairly straightforward. I want to order food.

mcdonalds-dark-patterns-1

Step 2. An advert, which is a little jarring, with a tiny close button in the top right. I’m not really sure what would happen here if I clicked somewhere else, like on one of the burger images.

mcdonalds-dark-patterns-2

Step 3. Insert card. I don’t know what I’m paying for yet, or how much it is, but I have to give them access to my payment mechanism up front. It’s a little scary.

mcdonalds-dark-patterns-3

Step 4. I know what I want, but it’s not easy to find. The meals have been organized into different groups, the names of which mean nothing to me: “Best Of”, “McFirst” and “Golden Meal”. I don’t even think these group terms are used in the main menu system at the manual ordering desk. How am I supposed to know where the burger is that I want?

mcdonalds-dark-patterns-4

Step 5. Eventually we find it, under “La gamme Royal” in the “Meal Best Of” category. Note that in the previous step, we chose the regular “Meal Best Of” option, not the “Menu Maxi Best Of” option, i.e. we chose the regular/medium size, not the large size.

mcdonalds-dark-patterns-5

Step 6. Yup, medium French Fries please.

mcdonalds-dark-patterns-6

Step 7. Choose a drink. Straightforward, albeit with no mention of size, like in the previous fries menu.

mcdonalds-dark-patterns-6b

Step 8. We’d already chosen the regular size on the initial screen. Now, after choosing a drink, it re-positions the “Maxi Best of Meal” as the large, highest priority option on the next screen. The initial choice we’d made is smaller and hidden at the bottom.

mcdonalds-dark-patterns-7

And it’s pretty difficult to press too.

mcdonalds-dark-patterns-8

Step 9. Up-selling with coffee. Again, it’s kind of designed to make it look like you need to choose an option. Notice at the bottom there are two options, “no, thanks” and “back to order”. We choose “no thanks”.

mcdonalds-dark-patterns-9

Step 10. Up-selling with ice-cream. This time, there is no “no, thanks”, only “back to order”. What does “back to order” mean? Do I lose the options I’ve already chosen? Turns out you don’t – clicking “back to order” is the only way to not add a Sundae to your order.

mcdonalds-dark-patterns-9b

So there you have it: the system they’re trying to replace in-person ordering with. It’s confusing, asks for a credit-card up-front, tries to up-sell you at every turn, and even tries to trick you into ordering a size you’ve already said you didn’t want.

Next time I’ll wait in line for one of the (decreasing number of) staff at the counter.