Are there other, more common ways of phrasing this? I know its better to have undo, but in this case we can't (yet) have undo, or "don't show this again".

Does anyone have experience with results for "are you sure" versus "confirm" or other language, and is there a big difference in success rate/time of response?

This is for cases when it isn't possible to allow an undo, when you are obligated to have the "are you sure" instance.

4 Answers 4


Your issue seems to be about helping users really pay attention; the problem underneath is called information pollution.

Excessive word count and worthless details are making it harder for people to extract useful information. The more you say, the more people tune out your message.

To tackle this, you have several options:

  • Engage in an usual task: for instance when you want to remove a repository on github, you are forced to write down the name. It's an effective way to make sure the action is targeted on the right item.

List item

  • High contrast: break design consistency using more negative space, a red color and strong border.

Ticking a box might work, but I suspect more and more users are ticking them without paying attention.

You may find more answers here as the first answer is partially considering your case.

Some further reading:

  • 1
    This is a very good answer, +1 for you. Tempted of giving you -10 for mentioning GitHub as a good UX example though ;) (just kidding!!!)
    – Devin
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 16:47
  • I would hate coming across the "unusual task" every time I try to delete something. Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 18:17
  • It really depends on the nature of the action. I would not recommend this as a replacement for confirmation, but it's good to know that there are ways to make sure people read confirmation note.
    – asiegf
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 5:33

Another common way to do this that I have seen would be, "This will [ACTION]. This cannot be undone. Would you like to continue?"

  • Welcome to the site, @Terry. Do you have any evidence that this variation performs better than alternatives? Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 17:52
  • I'm sorry @GrahamHerrli - I do not. I was answering the initial question of alternative phrasing. I find this to be more human, and also more clear. I'm happy to delete my initial comment if it is of no use without data to back it up.
    – Terry Robb
    Commented Sep 1, 2016 at 17:58
  • @GrahamHerrli I seriously doubt there will be any evidence out there. However Terry's answer is still valid - rephrasing the message will undoubtedly make a positive difference.
    – SteveD
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 8:41
  • 1
    I think Terri is right on the spot here: The question "Are you sure" just ads some more text without really telling the user what (s)he is sure of. Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 9:05
  • 1
    @GrahamHerrli, while there are some studies about this (maybe not the exact phrase or case, but similar for sure) the answer is about providing locus of control to the user, which is a paradigm proven under extensive testing. As such, I think the answer is valid and quite possibly correct
    – Devin
    Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 16:45

Since the user rarely reads the text in alert boxes, you might need some kind of extra security.

First describe the action: What is the user about to do.

Then, place a checkbox in that alert / modal saying "Yes, I have read and understod" and until that checkbox has been checked, the OK-button will be disabled.

Remember to keep the action-text as brief as possible.


@IliasBennani is right. People won't read the warning text.

The critical text is the button labels. People look at them to make sure they're clicking the right thing. So make the action button say what it's going to do. "Delete 4 Files" or "Move to Trash" or whatever.

Here's Target when you remove something from your shopping cart:

Target's Confirmation

  • I'd avoid any excessive distractions like checkboxes and type-ins, which will add an unnecessary amount hassle to the process. Commented Sep 2, 2016 at 18:51

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