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The cranky user: Take off the training wheels (01 Nov 2005)
Like public policy, user interfaces are often designed to overcome particular failings. In the rush to resolve the problem, the solution is often ill-thought-out and heavy-handed. The response of online commerce sites to double-submission bugs (where a user could submit the same order twice, resulting in two orders and two credit-card charges) is a good example. In the rush to assuage users, many sites have adopted elaborate JavaScript hacks to prevent order resubmission. Unfortunately, the hacks are typically far more error-prone than simply warning users not to click the button twice.

The fact is, users are responsible for their actions. In many cases I'd prefer to be warned -- once -- about the danger of proceeding than to be coddled and protected to the point of never learning better. Given both information and choice, I can decide for myself how I want to proceed. For instance, while I have disabled all my browser's security warnings about submitting unencrypted data and entering and leaving secure sites, I still like the warning about unencrypted forms on encrypted pages. That's a very useful warning that I don't plan to turn off.

This week's action item: Try to find instructions that refer to a confirmation message without needing you to click OK. (I've never seen this happen.) If you're just supposed to click OK, what's the message for?
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