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September 07, 2008

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A nice article about this (focusing on the gmail design) here: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/neveruseawarning
And of course, the Google Chrome/Firefox 3 handling of saved passwords is a huge usability win over its predecessors.

On the other hand, I think both the Mac and Windows shutdown dialogs are problematic, for different usability reasons. I actually think shutting down is one of the few appropriate uses of a modal confirmation-- it's not likely that someone chose shut down without knowledge of the consequences, but they may have chosen it by mistake-- it's a good idea to make them confirm it before wasting several minutes of their time going through a reboot cycle. (Actually, though, an OS that offered a "Cancel shutdown" button during the shutdown cycle would be a nice change, and would eliminate the need for the modal dialog).

But when I work on a Mac I'm liable to click a window accidentally after choosing shut down, and then I wonder why the shutdown isn't proceeding. On the other hand, the Windows shutdown is a case of too many choices-- I just said shut down, why is it offering me choices!?

I think modal dialogs ARE overused-- especially confirmation warnings. But sometimes, an interruption is really what is needed in the design. The user MUST make a decision in order to proceed. In web apps, lightbox-based modals are a huge improvement over using a seperate web page for dialog content.

Thanks for your thoughtful and skeptical comment David, and for that link to Aza Raskin's article.

Amen!

And similarly, "focus stealing" is something that sends me through the roof. When I'm doing lots of stuff in the background, and a task that started 10 minutes completes.... and shoves itself in front of what I'm doing (sometimes causing me to click on a dialog box that I didn't inted)....ugh

See here: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/001011.html

I agree that the firefox/chrome delayed password question is an improvement. But let's consider some typical shutdown scenarios:

1: you shut down your workstation at work to go home
2: you put your laptop into hibernation
3: you close your home pc to do something else
4: you close your home pc to plug in some new hardware/fiddle with some cables/...

Of all the above, I can't see how a 60 second delay would be useful, except for #3.

1: someone could hit 'cancel' and access your data.
2: you don't want to wait because the next move is to stick the laptop in your backpack
4: the next move is to open the case/...


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