Undo Timers: Comfort Users When Sending Messages

by on 02/06/14 at 10:03 am

Have you ever sent someone a message, read over it and realized that you made a few mistakes, or said something you didn’t mean to say? Users do this all the time and are left with embarrassment after they press the send button. A way to make users comfortable with sending messages is an undo timer. An undo timer gives users a window of time to undo their sent message before the recipient gets it.

When users send a message, a dialog box appears with an undo link they can click to retrieve their message from the sending queue. The dialog box should appear for a long enough time to allow users to read their message and choose to undo or not. If the undo timer is too fast, users won’t have enough time to make use of the undo. If it’s too slow, the recipient may notice a delay in getting an expected message. After the undo time passes, the dialog should tell the user that it sent their message.


Many users don’t read over their messages until after they send them. This is because when users are typing their message, they’re focused on what they want to say. This takes their focus away from how they’re saying it and what they’re typing. It’s only until after they’ve sent their message that they can focus their  attention on reading it over and checking for mistakes.

Undo timers can prevent users from making embarrassing mistakes in their messages. Some users may rarely use the undo. But giving them the power to undo makes the user feel comfortable and in control when sending messages. They’re likely to send more messages if they know they can quickly recover from a mistake. This keeps users engaged with your user interface.

3 Responses to “Undo Timers: Comfort Users When Sending Messages”

  1. Juho Vepsäläinen

    Feb 6th, 2014

    Very valid point. I simply love that feature and it has saved my bacon more than once.

    Next up: how a spellchecker can save a blogger from embarrassment. :)

  2. Gunnar

    Feb 7th, 2014

    FYI: This feature is available in Google Mail as part of their “Labs” section. I use it all the time – it saved me from some really embarrassing situations :-)

  3. Chris Thomas

    Feb 25th, 2014

    Very cool, I could do with an undo button on a few of my programs :)

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