On Confirmation vs Undo (in Web Applications)

This is a well discussed topic and nothing groundbreaking here, yet today I was in a situation where the group was so accustomed to confirmation boxes they almost seemed to crave them.

Let’s say you were deleting a record from a database. This is a really scary operation, so we should ask the user if they really wanted to do that. Sounds good right?

Delete confirmation

There we go. The user is warned that their action has consequences, and there is no going back!

However, if your job is to interact with the application every day and it involves deleting dozens of records, soon you will start instinctively press the button that your used to seeing. It is almost as if the big scary warning box with its red button and doomsaying message doesn’t exist!

Here is another example:

Word save dialog

You are probably so used to pressing “Save” that you may not have wanted to save. What if you deleted a huge chunk of text by accident and then quit? The undo history for Word 2011 is lost when you close the document. Oops.

Instead, our software developing friends fixed this issue for us a long time ago with, well, “Undo”.

Lets go back to our first example. I pressed the “Delete” button on a record. However instead of doing a second click on a confirmation dialog (which I probably ignored), the record is instantly deleted.

But without the confirmation dialog, who will save me from myself? How about this:

Delete Undelete


Deleted a filter? Undelete it! Crisis averted.

(Footnote: of course you have to delete the record eventually, but that can be done with a 3 am batch process when everyone is sleeping and content with their bold decision to delete that filter).




Sean Feil