by anthony on 02/23/11 at 6:20 pm
On a user interface dialog box, clicking the ‘Ok’ button means that the user wants the system to act. Clicking the ‘Cancel’ button means that the user wants to go back to the original screen. While ‘Ok’ buttons were the standard convention with operating systems of the past, most applications today have adopted a more user-friendly approach to dialog boxes.
Instead of giving users the ‘Ok’ button to confirm the action they want to do, it’s more efficient and effective to give users a button that’s labeled with the specific action. ‘Ok’ is not a specific action. It’s an exclamation. When users click the ‘Ok’ button, they’re not saying “okay”, they’re doing a specific action.
An action specific button would enable users to do their task much more quickly and accurately. Not all users will read the question or message in a dialog box. Most will make decisions without reading it carefully or completely. If an action button is labeled ‘Ok’, this could lead users who ignore dialog box text to click the wrong button. But if you label your ‘Ok’ button with a specific action, users will be able to see what action they’re about to do without reading the dialog box.
This approach lessens user errors and saves users’ time, especially when the dialog box message gets lengthy. The ‘Ok’ button forces users to not only read the dialog box message before they can select an option, which is not efficient and not always necessary.
Some users who have a language barrier will find lengthy dialog box messages hard to understand. It’s much safer for those users to select an option based on a simple verb they’re more likely to understand than a wordy message they’re less likely to understand. One word is also easier to look up in the dictionary if they don’t understand what it means.
A good dialog box isn’t just about asking users which action they want to do. It’s also about making each button clear, so that users can select the action they want quickly and accurately every time. User interfaces should change and adopt new design conventions that make the user experience better. Designers should learn that common practices accepted in the past are no longer acceptable by today’s design standards.