How to create better confirm and reject popups

Computers often ask us to confirm our intentions. Asking ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’ is a useful way to reduce input errors, but the way this question is posed is inconsistent.¬†We could improve the user experience – and reduce errors – by making it more consistent.

Here are a couple of current inconsistencies that introduce unnecessary mental overhead, and making error prevention less effective:

Positioning of ‘confirm’ and ‘do not confirm’ options

When deleting a tweet in Hootsuite, the placement of the ‘confirm’ button is on the left; in twitter it’s on the right:

the confirm / reject delete tweet popup in hootsuite

twitter delete tweet - confirm or reject

Note that both highlight the user’s probable intended action – ‘confirm deletion’.

Use of highlighting to show the user’s probable intended action

Not everywhere uses highlighting:

vertical response confirm reject deletion message

How could we improve our popup messages to make them more consistent and useful?

Some rules for creating better confirm and reject  popups

  • Place the ‘confirm’ option on the right and the ‘do not confirm’ option on the left.
  • Make your option buttons descriptive so that it’s very clear what each option entails.
    Avoid using the generic ‘Okay’ – instead, use imperatives like ‘Delete’.
  • Highlight the action the user probably intended to take.
  • If the user is about to do something potentially dangerous, grey out the ‘confirm’ option for a couple of seconds.
    Additional popups are annoying. If you really need to make someone wait to read a message – eg if you want them to confirm running a file they downloaded from the internet – grey out the ‘confirm’ option for a couple of seconds like Firefox does:

firefox popup - confirm or reject file save or open