Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Prompt for Action

The Problem

Whether confirming deletion, the intent to save, or prompting for change remarks, every interface must at some point verify the user's command. We have all seen the following more times than we can remember:

There's only one small problem. Users rarely read our detailed questions. Their goal isn't to read a paragraph of prose in a confirmation dialog. They just want to complete the save/delete/whatever action they just invoked and move on with their work.

The user's goal isn't to read a paragraph of prose in a confirmation dialog.

Although the confirmation may be a necessity, such as when prompting to save changes before exiting. From the user's perspective, they've just been shown a pop-up. If online advertising has accomplished anything, it's taught millions to ignore and even flee from popups.

The Solution

The solution, recognized and promoted for decades by companies such as Apple, is to label the available actions, not prompt for the user's ascent.

Now we are inviting the user to affirm the action desired, not read and understand a wall of text.

Take Action Now

  1. Identify all the confirmation dialogs in your system

  2. For each dialog, identify the actions available to the user

  • Use simple verbs. e.g. Save, Don't Save, and Cancel
  • Cancel is a fine label (sometimes)
  • OK is never okay
  1. Long labels are fine (but don't over do it) e.g. Delete Permanently

  2. Change the button labels

  3. Be consistent across dialogs. If the same logical action is available in multiple places, then use the exact same label

  4. Place the actions in a consistent order (which matches the platform as often as possible)


You just enabled your users to stay focused on completing the task at hand with your software.

P.S. If you're thinking, seriously? that was it? Well, yes! The goal is to make this easy for you and your users.

And honestly, you'd be surprised how many applications - even popular ones with millions of users - get this one wrong...