Duh, Raymond… just pop up a dialog!

I really enjoyed some of the comments on Raymond Chen's latest entry. As I read them, I thought to myself “Oh boy[1], I need to add a comment explaining that no one ever reads dialogs, so you folks should really stop suggesting that to Raymond as the quick fix in the comments on his blog whenever he posts about a Windows design decision.“ But, of course, he (and Management MVP Richard Threlkeld) beat me to it:

# re: Why does the Links folder keep re-creating itself? 6/30/2004 9:16 AM Raymond Chen

I find it ironic that people's suggested solutions are "Add more annoying dialogs that nobody will bother reading"...

And I put it to you, dear blog reader: Do you ever read dialogs that pop up in your face when you're trying to do something? I sure as heck don't, and I don't expect my customers to either. That's why we try to avoid adding dialogs if possible (of course sometimes it's the only or best or most affordable option).

[1] Yes, I really did think “oh boy”, spelled it right out in the ol' brain-thang.

Comments (7)

  1. girish says:

    Well, if it has pretty pictures in them, i might be interested in looking at them. Message boxes are usually ignored.

    Probably, that is what you need to do. Come up with random animations and random points to create the "OK/Cancel" buttons. That way, users would be forced to look at the message. 🙂

    Ok, I am being specious. But still..

  2. Jeremy C. Wright says:

    I don’t read. I look for the most obvious answer based on the information immediately available.

    Dialog’s title is "Install Location", I’ll pick where I want it installed…

    Normally this works but, you’re right, I don’t end up reading it unless it’s obvious or I’ve hit a snafu in an app before 🙂

  3. Larry Osterman says:

    That’s why I LOVE the new IE popup band. It’s a SWEET UI alternative to dialog boxes.

    And since I now work in a UI group, I’m much more sensitive to these issues 🙂

  4. KC Lemson says:

    Actually, I’m a little curious to see if there are any problems with that band… Outlook’s used that type of an area for displaying information for years (it’s called the infobar), and there are some concerns that users don’t notice it. Not that I have any better ideas.

  5. Bryan says:

    Well since I just read a firefox popup earlier today and responded that no, I didn’t want the plugin installed, I guess I do.

  6. Clinton Pierce says:

    I read dialogs only under two circumstances:

    * When I’m doing something tricky, dangerous, or really confusing that can’t easily be un-done. Installing an OS, formatting something, burning something, remote system configuration, in the debugger, etc…

    * When they keep re-appearing. About the 3rd re-appearance of a dialog in a normal application makes me read it. If it’s preventing me from continuing then I might actually digest the information so I can get by. If I find out it’s informative then I’ll probably never read dialogs in this application ever again, unless I get the first type for some reason.

    Handy dialog-related UI feature: The checkbox "Don’t ever show me this dialog again." I only wish it defaulted to Checked.

  7. KC Lemson says:

    Clinton: That’s exactly the way I am too. And I don’t think it’s a good idea for the PONT (prompt once, not twice) to be checked by default because what happens if you accidentally click the OK button while you’re typing something and a dialog pops up?

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