Friday, June 29, 2007


It's interesting how hard it is to design user interfaces. Even if you have usability designers involved in the process, even if you go through lots of testing, user interfaces always seem to excel at annoying the users. I've talked before about confirmation dialogs, and well, I just can't stop being annoyed by them, so here we go again...

Today I started writing an SMS, then realized that I should call this person instead, so after writing 2 or 3 letters, I pressed Cancel. Of course the phone has to pop up a dialog, asking me if I'd like to save what I've written so far as a draft. No, thank you, that wouldn't be of much help, actually it wouldn't make sense at all. But the code in the messaging application has registered input, and so has to pop up that dialog. Now, how hard would it have been to introduce some arbitrary limit on the minimum number of letters typed, before popping up that dialog if Cancel is pressed? A few lines of code should do it.

Of course, doing this might seem a bit dangerous. Maybe the user is counting on getting that popup when pressing Cancel. Maybe some users like to save lots of 2-3 letter drafts, to reuse later. Don't mind the fact that opening it would take longer than re-typing those 2 or 3 letters. Well, I don't think it matters. More users are likely to be annoyed by the confirmation dialog than by losing a few words of text.

Or, well, what do I know?


jrc said...

I'd auto-save all the drafts and auto-delete all drafts older than, say, 1 week. No confirmations needed in either case.

puterman said...

I think the Nokia usability team would like your idea, but with a slight modification: when the draft was about to be deleted, you'd get a confirmation dialog.

Seriously though, there will be problems no matter what you do about it. How would the user know that a draft has been saved? You can't pop up a note, that'd be about as irritating as the confirmation dialog. And how would she know that there was a draft to start from the next time she wanted to write a message? I guess with a big enough screen and a flexible UI it'd be easier.

But how does the iPhone do it? Have you received yours yet? :)

puterman said...

Konqueror says: "This tab contains changes that have not been submitted. Closing the tab will discard these changes."

At least there's the option to not get this stupid question again.

jrc said...

Ok, how about limiting the number of drafts to 1? Then no auto-delete is needed. When you compose a new message, it asks if you want to continue the old one. Otherwise, no confirmations.

puterman said...

I guess that might be a reasonable solution.