What are some alternatives to the phrase "Are you sure you want to XYZ" in confirmation dialogs?

  • I don't like seeing the word 'you' in the message twice. Examples:

    1. Are you sure you want to delete this item?
    2. Are you sure you want to continue?

    Not sure that not liking seeing the word you twice is a good enough reason to want to change the dialogue text, but whatever floats your boat :)

    **You should try to avoid "are you sure" dialogs** if you can. People tend to click YES or OK out of habit, so it's not much of a safeguard against doing the wrong thing. It's much better to skip the confirmation, but provide an undo. Aza Raskin puts it well: Never Use A Warning When You Mean Undo

    @Patrick: put it in an answer.

    - Delete this item? YES NO - Are you sure? YES NO - Do you understand the implications of deleting this? YES NO - Coke or Pepsi? YES NO

  • Bevan

    Bevan Correct answer

    11 years ago

    Part of the reason that people skip over long messages is due to reading speed.

    Assume for the sake of discussion someone with an average reading speed - around 200 words per minute.(*)

    If you use just 20 words in a dialog, you're asking that user to spend 6 seconds reading and understanding what you wrote.

    While that doesn't sound like much, a six second imposed pause when you're trying to get something done can seem to be an awfully long time.

    (*) And don't make the mistake of assuming that low reading speed means low intelligence.

    So, three suggestions for you, all aimed at maximum clarity with minimum fuss.

    1. Be as concise as possible
    2. Identify the item at risk
    3. Name your buttons for the actions

    Here is a simple deletion dialog:


    Let's reduce the number of words to the minimum to make it easier to read:


    Now, let's identify the item at risk, and label the buttons for the action:

    alt text

    Much better - easier to read and clearer.

    Another example - a continuation dialog.

    Confirmation dialog

    Simplify wording.

    Better Continue dialog

    Again, let's identify what's going on and label the buttons for the actions.

    Best Continue Dialog

    A definite improvement.

    Here's a final thought. Avoid negatives, especially double negatives. Some native English speakers find double negatives tricky, and many who learn English as a second language find them confusing (especially if their native tongue uses double-negatives for emphasis instead of inversion).

    I think you might have double-posted the Best image.

    Or, you can just read the Windows UX guidelines http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa511258.aspx where they actually write about this :)

    @Tomas - Excellent link.

    +1 I too believe it's clearer when the buttons aren't labeled just ok/cancel, but Post/Cancel or Delete/Cancel

    I believe you are actually setting some bad examples: 1. It is "OK", not "Ok". 2. If you ask a yes/no question, the possible answers must be yes or no, certainly not OK and Cancel. 3. If you identify the buttons for the action, you must do this with both buttons, not just with one (i.e. Delete/Keep not Delete/Cancel) Apart from that I also believe any sentence must at least contain a subject and a verb, but that is personal.

    @BaGi - I think you may have misread my answer: I'm showing a progression from poor to better. Having a Yes/No question with Ok/Cancel as the buttons is certainly poor, but is all too commom, and this is what I was pointing out. To address your points ... Where there is a simple inverse, using it for the Cancel button makes sense - so Delete/Keep is better than Delete/Cancel, but this isn't always possible - what's the inverse of Post? Post/Don't Post seems clumsy. And, I think all my examples are full sentences. To take the last one: "Continue":verb; "Transaction processing": subject.

    @Bevan: I don't think Post? Post/Don't Post is clumsy. Save/don't save is what you see constantly. In you last sentence "transaction processing" is not at all a subject , but an indirect object (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object_%28grammar%29). I did understand your examples show a gradual improvement, I just think the final result still contains a few minor flaws.

    @BartGijssens: I'd always prefer `Cancel` to anything else... because without a single neuron firing I know that it does nothing (effectively one less word to read). The problem with "Don't save" is that it may use "Throw away" in some other (poor) context.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM