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This question is about those self-referential settings where the ability of the user to control a device, say:

  • using a mouse cursor, or
  • viewing it on a monitor screen

is itself affected by the setting they're changing:

  • adjusting the mouse speed, or
  • configuring monitor settings

Consider these predicaments:

  • The user sets their mouse speed too fast that they can't click anything in order to set the setting back to slow.
  • The user positions their multiple monitors in such a way they can no longer find the window or their cursor so they can't undo the change.

This class of problem is particularly prevalent in the context of assistive devices, where the user's interface to a device is inherently limited to begin with.

One UX pattern I've seen that addresses this is to apply the change and then start a countdown (say, 10 seconds) that will revert the change when the countdown reaches 0. That is, unless during this countdown phase the user is able to click a certain button, proving that the change is acceptable and they are not in a predicament as described above. Ubuntu uses this UX strategy for monitor and display settings, but I have not come across a name for it.

My question is: Are there other UX strategies for dealing with these self-referential settings which risk putting the user in a pinch?

And have people found the UX pattern described above to be successful, or flawed?

(In case it's helpful to state, my current concern is indeed an assistive device, and mouse speed is the setting on top of mind.)

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  • I think it would be easier to answer this question in the context of an actual example that is described in more detail. The type of design pattern might have a general answer, but the details will be quite generic and probably not all that helpful. – Michael Lai 2 days ago

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