by anthony on 02/23/11 at 6:20 pm
When the graphical user interface first emerged, designers designed their dialog boxes with a mechanical and binary approach. Clicking the ‘Ok’ button on a dialog box meant that the user wanted the system to act. Clicking the Cancel button on a dialog box meant that the user didn’t want the system to act, and wanted to go back to their original screen. While this was the standard convention with operating systems and applications of the past, most operating systems and 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 just saying okay, they want to do a specific action. The word ‘Ok’ simply doesn’t do the button justice.
An action specific button would better enable users to select the right option quickly nearly every time. Not all users will always read the question or message in the dialog box. Some users will make decisions without reading it carefully or without reading it completely. If your action button is simply labeled ‘Ok’, this could result in a lot of users selecting the wrong option. However, if you label your button with a specific action, it’ll be harder for users to select the wrong option because the action the user wants shows up right on the button. Users will not only be able to select the right option more often, but they’ll be able to do it quicker without needing to read the dialog box message.
This approach lessens user errors and saves the user’s time, especially when the dialog box message is really long or hard to understand. The ‘Ok’ button forces users to not only read the dialog box message, but fully understand it before they can select an option. This isn’t possible for some users who have a language barrier. It’s much safer for those users to select an option based on a simple one word action 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 completely 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. The ‘Ok’ button reeks of mediocrity. It’s a button that’s okay, but not great. To get users to interact with your design at a high level, mediocrity simply won’t cut it. What was once popular and accepted in the past, is no longer accepted with today’s design standards. This forces us to grow and change, so that we become better designers as we move into the future.