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We often have to ask people to confirm an action. The usual text is:

"Are you sure that you want to _________?"

Are there any shorter but clear ways of asking this?

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1  
Looks a lot like this question: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/29393/… –  André Jan 16 '13 at 13:33
    
@André this is about the question, not the button text. –  JohnGB Jan 16 '13 at 13:50
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The two are intimately linked: the button should contain the answer to the question you ask. "Are you sure" is a yes or no question (though the meaning of 'no' is vague here: does not being sure mean that you should not do the action?). Also, in the topic I referenced I raise the point that asking this type of question should be avoided to begin with. Provide an undo instead. –  André Jan 16 '13 at 13:53
    
@André Example: "Are you sure that you want to remove Joe Soap from this access group?" Some questions need to include more information than a button will allow. –  JohnGB Jan 16 '13 at 14:00
    
@JohnGB: So have a big action button with the default action and a long text ("Remove Joe Soap from X group") and a smaller "cancel" link next to or under it. –  Marjan Venema Jan 16 '13 at 14:40

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The value of confirmation messages is to give user a chance to stop themselves from doing a potentially wrong action on the potentially wrong thing under the potentially wrong conditions, so try to make the message only include the action, object, and conditions (if applicable). Thus, the most terse message would be the form:

  • [action] [object] [condition]?

Examples:

  • Delete c:\windows\explorer.exe?
  • Abandon uploading kitty.flv and disconnect from ftp:\cathost.com?
  • Shut down #1 engine while airborne?

The confirming button should be labeled with [action].

The “are you sure you want to” or “do you want to” text is more conversational, which some users may like, but given users’ tendency to avoid reading as much as possible, I think there is something to be said having only the most critical information.

However, I wouldn't go any terser than above. For example, I wouldn't make the second bullet simply "Disconnect?" (let's say that's what the user actually commanded). The user may have meant to disconnect from something else, so they'll confirm when they shouldn't. Or they may be unaware of the condition or implications (i.e., that it will cancel an upload), so again they'll confirm when they shouldn't.

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1  
The value of confirmation messages has been greatly overestimated. Most users will try to get rid of them, without actually reading them. If they pop up frequently, they will be clicked over almost automatically, including that one time the user actually should have stopped to think. Undo is the magic keyword. –  André Jan 16 '13 at 15:05
    
I agree with everything you say. The best (and shortest) confirmation is no confirmation. However, if undo is not an option (such as the case for the second bullet), I recommend restricting the confirmation text to just the most critical words to maximize the chance that the users catch a glimpse of a key clue to an error before their click reflexes get the better of them. –  Michael Zuschlag Jan 16 '13 at 15:18

Shorter but clear way of asking this is to remove the first part of your initial phrase:

"___?"

instead of

"Are you sure that you want to ___?"

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you can get rid of "that" which is true in english

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I think it depends on context but in general, why not display the action intended, only word, only with a question mark.

Examples- 1. Exit ? 2. Save? 3. Cancel? 4. Etc.

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Taking inspirations from others

Chrome-Updates:

When I click on 'About Google Chrome' on settings tools menu, it shows that updates are available and give a button to update.

iPhone HTML5 database delete

When I go to Settings -> Safari -> Databases, it shows list of databases with a 'Edit button' at the top. On clicking edit button, it shows minus button "-". When you click on 'Minus' button, it slides 'Delete' button from the right to ask users confirmation.

facebook app submission confirmation

It shows summary of the app right above the 'App detail' page and give 'Confirm Submission' button

Sending mail without subject in gmail

It shows up dialog prompt "Send mail without subject?". Once you click on 'Yes' it sends the email.

These are some of the different context where user's confirmation is taken differently than simply showing the confirmation prompt.

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