Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Never Use a Warning When you Mean Undo

When warnings don't work ...

"Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you realize—just a split second too late—that you shouldn’t have clicked “Okay” in the “Are you sure you want to quit?” dialog?

Yes? Well, you’re in good company—everybody has had a similar experience, so there’s no need to feel ashamed about it. It’s not your fault: it’s your software’s fault.

Why? Because software should “know” that we form habits. Software should know that after clicking “Okay” countless times in response to the question, we’ll probably click “Okay” this time too, even if we don’t mean to. Software should know that we won’t have a chance to think before accidentally throwing our work away.

Why should it know these things? Because software designers should know that we form habits, whether we want to or not.

Habit formation is actually good thing: it saves us the trouble of having to think when confronted with interface banalities and it lessens the probability that our train of thought will get derailed. In the case of the “Are you sure you want to quit?” dialog, our hands have memorized close-and-click as a single continuous gesture. That’s good, because most of the time we don’t want to think about the question—we just do the right thing. Unfortunately, our habits sometimes make us do the wrong thing: we don’t even have time to realize our mistake until after we’ve made it.

So, as designers we are led to a general interface principle: If an interface is to be humane, it must respect habituation..

Possible solutions
What about making the warning harder to ignore? A subtle warning will get passed by, so let’s pull out all the stops: we’ll blink the screen and play a loud stretching noise to ensure that the user is paying attention. Try as we might, it still won’t work. The more in-your-face the warning is, the faster we’ll want to get away from it (by clicking “Okay”) and the more mistakes we’ll make. The thing is, no matter how fully in-your-face the computer presents the warning, we’ll still make the same mistake—clicking “Okay” when we don’t mean to. But it’s still not our fault: as long as it’s possible to habituate to dismissing the message, we’ll habituate, and then we’ll make mistakes."    (Continued via A List Apart)    [Usability Resources]

Never Use A Warning: Sinking Feeling - Usability, User Interface Design

Never Use A Warning: Sinking Feeling


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