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I'm trying to find out if there are some semi-standard ways of handling the "are you sure?" confirmation logic when a person deletes a record or item.

The typical options are:

  1. Show a "Are you sure you want to delete this item?" modal.
  2. Don't show a modal but have some sort of undo (like a trash).

And, with the advent of touch:

  1. Swipe to reveal a delete option, tap to delete.

Has anyone seen or found any good alternatives to these? Maybe these are good and we don't need alternatives?

I did come across this one via Reddit: http://i.imgur.com/DF7xk64.gif which is definitely creative, though not sure how usable it is.

  • The "undo" argument is actually gaining more momentum and there's some very good points made here: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/71960/… Essentially it argues that you should assume your user is doing what they actually want to be doing and only in the smaller chance that they did not mean to do something, a a way of undoing that action is provided. – skwokz Mar 5 '15 at 22:45
  • Android also has the swipe to delete pattern, with a temporary undo item. – Mathijs Segers Mar 6 '15 at 11:14
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Great question.

I've been thinking a lot about "confirmless deletes" because of a behavioral issue with models that is outlined here.

In short, most users actually intend to delete an item when they initiate the interaction, so throwing up a traditional confirmation is annoying most of the time.

I totally agree with Lauren's answer on the basic approaches. That said, there is some creative space available inside the two categories she outlines.

Here are some non-modal deletion interactions:


(the image is clickable) enter image description here


  1. "Countdown deletion". User hits delete and a subtle "deleting..." progress bar animates for about 5 seconds allowing the user to undo the deletion. This solves a problem with "Gmail" style deletions where the undo notification is visible for an unpredictable amount of time.

  2. "Drag to trash" a reinterpretation of the desktop trash pattern for touchscreens. Holding down an object activates a scrim overlay and a trash can (and potentially other actions) appears. User keeps finger down and drags item to can, so that the hold-and-drag provides affirmation of intent.

  3. "Eraser interaction" for bulk object deletes. User hits an eraser icon (which is the single positive affirmation) and taps on items to delete while the tool is active. This is used in vector graphics programs but could be extended to handling photo albums, inventory lists, or any other interface that is dense with objects.

  • 1
    Similar to the eraser interaction. For tabular data, there's the check to select items, and click button to delete selection. – nightning Mar 5 '15 at 20:59
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Severity and recoverability of the action can help guide the style you use. Also the platform you're on. Platform standards also playing a role.

Dialog vs. Undo

This was discussed in the following Q&A. When dialogs vs. undos make sense:

Deletion: Confirm or Undo? Which is the better option and why?

Slide to Delete

Gestures on mobile devices introduce new dynamics that allow you provide shortcuts in deleting items. Take note of apps that use the slide gesture to reveal a delete button -- most times this is simply a shortcut to the action. There is normally (and should be) an alternative way to delete the item other than the hidden gesture reveal.

Type to Confirm

Typing a word or phrase to confirm deletion is common when the action is absolutely unrecoverable. GitHub, for example, does this when asking to delete a repository.

enter image description here

Notice also the language of the button. You're simply not asking to "delete" the repository, but confirming your understanding of what it means to continue.

Hold to Delete

The action you linked to is an interesting one; one I've not seen before; and one I hope to never have to deal with. It's horrific!

enter image description here

This appears to be done on desktop environment, where "hold to take action" doesn't make sense. But it does make sense in other situations.

Gesture systems (e.g., the Kinect) uses a similar metaphor where holding your hand (or the icon representing your hand) over a target reveals a timer circle that quickly fills, making sure that you really meant to select what you're hovering over.

enter image description here

2

Yes, I'd say you are correct. The standards are:

  • let the user do what they want to do, but provide a way to undo
  • let the user do what they want to do, but confirm before doing
  • It may be interesting to give solid examples/references for both standards. :-) – Pierre Arlaud Mar 6 '15 at 10:40
  • Yeah, I interpreted the question at a high-level. I would add some detailed examples, but at this point, there are already a lot great examples on the thread :). Not sure how helpful it would be for me to add more. – Lauren Dankiewicz Mar 6 '15 at 18:38
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There is another standard pattern where items are moved into different 'folders' or 'tabs' with a notification, and that the user can simply action to move them between these different working areas. This means that because the user can 'undo' the action there is no need for a forced acknowledgement or confirmation.

The classic example is to delete from an email inbox and for the item to be moved to a 'trash' folder. Although the standard action is still delete, the reverse action is to 'move to inbox'.

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