Are you sure you want to delete?

I accidentally deleted a chat conversation with a seller on OLX and it happened with no warning. Aargh!  Instead of making this a rant, I will talk about how to avoid such usability mistakes and empathize with the end users.

When you choose to delete something, the system verifies your choice by asking you to validate the decision. The purpose of validation is to ensure that the irreversible loss of information or data should not be of grave consequence for the user.
There are several instances in our daily digital lives that we end up deleting stuff. Emails immediately come to mind. Then, there are chat messages, SMSes, notifications, documents and many more.

On desktop OS, when we press delete after selecting a file, the system asks us to verify our decision to delete. But when we drag a file on a recycle bin, it does not. Why so? Its simple, you are making an effort to delete something by selecting it, dragging it to the destination and then releasing it on the recycle bin icon. You have to be pretty sure you want to delete to be doing that. On the other hand, the delete button can be accidentally pressed too. On top of it, even after you delete, you get one more chance to salvage the deleted item before you Empty out the recycle bin.

Safety Net
Irrespective of whether you verify a user action or not, you can always provide the user an option to revert his/her decision later. Even if the later is limited by time and not a permanent option.



Gmail provides options to Undo in multiple delete scenarios.

Snack-bar notifications allow us to communicate with the user the action applied as well as an alternative CTA to revert back the decision. The notification style is non obstructive in nature and hence will not leave any unpleasant experience when carrying out daily repetitive tasks.

This  brings us to the basic question, when do we validate?

  • Can the user invoke delete action accidentally? If yes, verify action.
  • Can the action be undone? If no, verify action.
  • Is the action repetitive (e.g removal of notifications)?
    • If its not critical, do not verify.
    • If you are not sure, give use a chance to undo it, but in a non obstructive manner. (like a snack bar notification with an option to ‘Undo’). These alternatives are like a limited time offer. J

So please, next time, have some empathy for the users and save them from the horror of accidental data loss.


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