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The question is, if a user is performing an important interaction multiple times, is it good or bad to make them take an extra step in-between? And more broadly, what responsibility does a UX designer have in a battle between ease of use and responsible behavior in an app?

So to illustrate this specific example, a simple workflow mockup. The scenario is a user has more than one item in their inbox.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

I'm feeling pretty torn. Is it more important to get the user to what they want to get to as quickly and easily as possible, -OR- due to the significant nature of the actions they are performing, would the app better serve the companies that are paying for it by requiring the user to first return to their inbox before navigating to the next item.

My biggest worry is that, since the buttons are in the same spot, a user could get into a clicking frenzy and blaze through their tasks irresponsibly. I know its not my problem if a user is irresponsible or doesn't care, but should I make it easier for them to go down that path?

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Are there any significant implications like loss of data or something similar if people do get into a clicking frequency –  Mervin Johnsingh Dec 4 '13 at 20:14
    
No loss of data, but they could potentially be agreeing to standards or protocols that would affect their job and expectations of their superiors. –  Matt Lavoie Dec 4 '13 at 20:32
    
Would this application show the need to accept these protocols or standards regularly ? Or at rare intervals –  Mervin Johnsingh Dec 4 '13 at 20:44
    
It would be up to a user who was responsible for creating or revising them. They may need to be accepted once a year, or just once...and the number would be based on their particular needs. –  Matt Lavoie Dec 4 '13 at 20:57

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

If these actions are something one would do in succession I would say try to give an option to perform them in batch with an intermediate page reviewing the consequences of those actions. E.G. A list of the standards and protocols they are agreeing to before finalizing.

I feel like either way it may be a good idea to have a check box near the "Important Action" box that says something short, along the lines of "I have read and understand the consequences of performing this action," a sentence that is quickly read and gives a hint to the user that there is something pretty significant happening here. That way it may not take as much time as returning to the inbox, but there is a reassurance that the user can't simply spam click the button to continue to the next action.

EDIT:

If the focus (as it seems from comments) is to get the user to focus more on the text on the left perhaps restructuring the page may help, depending on how much text there is on the left. Forcing the user to scroll past everything to complete the action rather than making it available right away.

Even if the text isn't large moving the confirmation close to it is about as good as you're going to get for making the user look at it, as even if you force the user back to the inbox the user will still expect the confirmation and action to be in the same place and easily skip reading or glancing at anything.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

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There is a message and confirmation just like that, but I kept the mockups as simple as I could. My worry is that it doesn't force the user to move their eyes back to the top left where the good stuff is, and lets them just sit in that action area down in the bottom right... –  Matt Lavoie Dec 4 '13 at 21:01
    
Perhaps the thing to do would be to put the confirmation near where the "good stuff" is. IMO nothing is gained from forcing them to go back to the inbox, if there is already confirmation. I'm not sure the length of the body of the "important thing" but if it is more than a page perhaps restructuring the page would benefit. Forcing the user to scroll past the "good stuff" to perform the action. –  Don Dec 4 '13 at 21:06
    
Unfortunately the good stuff could be anything from a pdf document to a video, both of which present unique challenges in that regard. Thanks for your feedback though. You've given me some great stuff to think about. –  Matt Lavoie Dec 4 '13 at 21:14
    
answer edited... –  Don Dec 4 '13 at 21:14
    
Due to how specific this problem is, and how vague I've been, I think this answer is definitely the best. Thanks to everyone's feedback though. Sorry I couldn't illustrate the problem more clearly. –  Matt Lavoie Dec 9 '13 at 16:04

What you are doing is actually more of an anti-pattern of UX.

Instead of inserting an extra step, the best solution is to provide Undo.

Windows no longer nags you about deleting files (unless you hold shift for instant real delete) because they goto the recycling bin. Windows used to nag you about even sending stuff to the recycling bin.

The reason this is an anti-pattern you are training your users to blindly confirm that they actually will get themselves into a situtation where they just click and then..... OH NOES.

And then you're restoring database backups instead of the user just fixing their own problem.

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Thanks for the post, and I love that you brought up undo. I definitely agree with that when an action that could cause consequences to a system is taken. Unfortunately, this action isn't one that affects the system, but the users real life. That is why it is such an odd problem. Wish I could be less vague/confusing. –  Matt Lavoie Dec 9 '13 at 16:01

For starters dont make it so obvious that an alert message or an important notification about the user potentially making a mistake can be just skipped in the button clicking frenzy but think about how you can highlight the error or concern so that users do notice it.To quote the smashing magazine article

Pretty much every application has some form of feedback messages. These are little messages that pop out when there is an error or warning or perhaps when an action is completed successfully. Designing these messages correctly is important because you don’t want to confuse or startle your users when there’s nothing to worry about. A good practice here is to do a couple of things. First, color code the different types of messages. Messages that notify users of successful actions are usually colored green. These employ the traffic-light analogy of green meaning “Go.” Warning and error messages are colored yellow. Same traffic-light analogy here: yellow means slow down and wait. You can also distinguish between warning messages and error messages by coloring errors red and warnings yellow.

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The second thing to do is add a unique icon for each message type. Icons can convey meaning instantly, without the user having to read the message. For example, a tick icon can symbolize completion of a successful action. An exclamation mark in a triangle is a warning sign. People will instantly recognize that this message warns them about something and will pay attention.

That said since the action happens once a year or not at very regular intervals, having a confirmation dialog should be fine as you need to inform users of the potential dangers of performing that action.To quote this ux matters article

When a user chooses a command that can destroy the user’s data, always display a confirmation message box

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Lastly I recommend reading this excellent article on how to write effective communication messages. To quote the article

A good confirmation main instruction must require thought. Remember, the entire point of an effective confirmation is to give the user a reason not to proceed, so that reason should be clear. (Making the generic “Are you sure?” confirmation clearly pointless.) The risk of the action or the unintended consequence should be extremely clear.

Provide all the information

A general rule: whenever you ask the user a question, you provide all the information required to provide an informed answer. Be sure to give specific risks, object names, contexts, etc. required to respond in the confirmation itself.

Design responses to create a mental speed bump

Ordinarily, a good dialog box is designed for efficient decision making, where users can often respond without reading anything but the response buttons. While this works well in general, the entire point of a confirmation is to get the user to stop and think about whether or not to proceed. (If proceeding requires no thought, don’t confirm!) There are two facts about user behavior that we need to work with here:

  • We can’t force users to read the main instruction.
  • Users do read button labels before they click them.

Given these facts, there are three ways we can write the response button labels to create a mental speed bump:

  • Choose specific responses so that the reason to not proceed is obvious even without reading the main instruction.
  • Use Yes/No responses (with the safe response the default). While there’s no guarantee, users generally read what they are responding Yes or No to before clicking.
  • Add “anyway” to the label, as in “Proceed anyway.” Anyway is a very provocative word that gets users to stop and think. “You mean there’s a reason to not proceed? Better find out what it is first.”
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3  
That's a bad confirmation box, the buttons should be more along the lines of "Delete" and "Cancel" –  Chris Marisic Dec 4 '13 at 21:48

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