In the digital age, their is one invention that is just amazing: the trash bin. This little feature is one of the most useful ones that you find. Be it in your OS or on services and apps like Wordpress. We all know how much valuable it is to dig it your lovely trash bin. Especially when you trashed something that you shouldn’t have.
But if this feature is so useful why isn’t she implemented everywhere? Laziness. That’s the answer. I have to admit that I have created apps on my own, and I didn’t build a trash bin, why? Because it’s just quicker to build a little alert window that says «Are you sure you want to delete this?». Today I would feel ashamed to do that again. Therefore, one of my rules for the creation of new apps is:
If you can delete something, you should always have a possibility to bring it back.
Emptying the trash should be difficult
It’s right to bother sometimes
When it comes to empty a trash because the content in it takes to much space, you should implement a non-standard alert message. The standard alert message is the one with the typical two buttons. This button comes after a short explanation and offers these options « Cancel » « OK ». Why shouldn’t you go with that solution? Because people are used to clicking OK without thinking. As someone who builds apps, you think that an alert message is enough. But what you discover by observing users is that they just don’t read them. They know they have to click on the "OK" button to get stuff done, so they click. And oups… it’s later that they discover they shouldn’t have done that. This leads me to the other rule for interaction design:
If you can’t recover something when deleting it, alert the user in an uncommon way.
There are some great examples of companies implementing such systems. Mailchimp does that when you want to delete a template. They ask you to write the word delete in all caps in a text field. And only then you can delete the template. That helps users to come out of the habits and think about what they are about to do.
Note on the undo feature
Don’t make me look crazy
The undo feature on Apple mobile device is a gesture. Shake your device and it fires the undo function. That’s great, for each app it’s the same, and it’s something memorable. Even it’s something that looks cool in the demo videos. But there are two main issues. The first one is simple; I don’t know when it’s possible to undo or not. As there is no visible button, it happens that I shake my device several times for nothing. And this leads me to the next issue: this feature makes me look crazy. As I ride at least 3 hours train per day, I’m surrounded with people when I do stuff on my mobile devices. And shaking your tablet in the middle of the train when there is no space is awkward. It just makes you feel lame. This leads the last interaction design rule of this article:
Make that damn undo feature visible and discrete to use.
The undo feature is, of course, great when it’s a button. It is effective and makes you feel like a human and not like a smartphone cocktail barista. But still, you can put in place gesture based undo features that are discrete. The example of the Paper app by 53 is a great inspiration. By drawing a circle with two fingers, you can do many undo. To make the feature visible, you will see a demo video the first time you launch the app.
Let’s sum it up
Three simple rules
If you build apps or are part of the creation process, always think about the lovely trash. Remember that people don’t read the alerts. Keep in mind that undoing something shouldn’t look like dancing. And thinking about this is not only the job of developers. But designers, product managers and clients should all think about this too. Because it’s just a damn simple way to enhance the user experience and satisfaction in your apps.