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I'm currently working on a mobile web app with external designers, but we (the developers) are allowed some input. They keep wanting to add alert and confirmation dialogs for things like form validation, signing out, deleting things, etc, which raises UX red flags for me - they just seem wrong on mobile web apps for some reason and I can't pinpoint exactly why.

Worse, they keep asking for things that alert() and confirm() can't do, like using "Delete/Cancel" or "Yes/No" instead of the default "OK/Cancel", or disabling the "Prevent this webpage from creating additional dialog" checkbox that appears on modern browsers. The only way to do this, of course, is to create custom dialogs, which raises even more red flags.

Is there any research or authoritative articles on why this is bad? Or am I just going crazy?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Take a look at this UX/Design guideline from Google about Confirming and Acknowledging:

Although the guideline is for mobile applications, the principle and flowchart highlighted in the guideline can help you and your team decide when and when not to use alerts and confirm dialog.

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I'm accepting this because it's the only research-based answer as opposed to opinion-based. If anybody has some research more specific to mobile web, I would be happy to change my answer. – DallonF Feb 17 '14 at 14:32

Generally you should look at the use of confirmation dialogs as a last resort. They break the flow of the task for users that understand the system. The dialogs are often confused by users or not read at all. First decide if something significant will happen. If so, determine if undo function can be developed.

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I don't think alert/confirm dialogs are bad, in mobile web or other contexts. When the user has to confirm an important operation, like deleting something, he will be pleased to have the opportunity to cancel this operation. But when you speak about form validation or signing out it's odd to ask confirmation for these things. Is signing out permanent? Can I simply log in again if I clicked on the link by error?

So I have no source to answer your question but I think you can ask yourself: who loves confirm dialog? Nobody, confirm dialogs are just distracting you or your users from doing real things. But when you need to ask user confirmation, they are the perfect solution.

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