We make mistakes. In most part of life, mistakes tend to incur cost, from money, harm to simply time, and due to interaction with the physical world. In world of software however, where state of things can be cheaply changed back and forth, with some clever design, mistakes can be made free of cost. I’ve increasingly noticed more of such design in products I use and I thought I make a list here:
Mute notifications for next 4 hours. Notifications can sometimes frustrate the user who is under stress and if the notification settings stick indefinitely, a temporary annoyance can turn to ignored messages/emails for days. Google Hangouts, Slack and most messaging apps have timed mute feature. One place where this is very much needed is on browsers. Given that browser is a platform, it relieves all the individual sites from having to implement this functionality. Android is a good example where this is implemented across the entire OS. It even goes further and allows marking notifications from certain apps as being of higher priority which bypass the mute period.
Don’t ask password for 2 weeks. In my opinion, this serves two purpose:
- Disallow indefinite unauthorized use of an account
- Help user not forget their password by forcing them to enter it on regular basis. To further help with this point, the website can ask for password more frequently than every 2 weeks for new sign ups and gradually increase the time.
Use PIN instead of fingerprint after 40 unlocks. This is very similar to the previous one. On Android, you have to use your PIN once in awhile even when fingerprint is setup to unlock the device. Again, this helps the user refresh their memory of the PIN as it is required on boot to decrypt the user data.
Stop playing music after 30 minutes. This is more of a wishlist item as I haven’t seen it in any of the music players I use. For me, this is useful at work when I tend to forget to stop listening to songs and it becomes taxing on my brain. I also sometimes like to fall asleep listening to music, but don’t want it playing in my ears all night. This feature could be improved by fading volume over and only stopping at the end of currently playing song.
Send email 10 seconds after send button is pressed. To make this effective, Gmail has you believe that the email is sent and somehow magically, you can undo the send. This feature has saved my ass few times.
Lower playback volume after 6 hours. This is my favorite feature, new in latest Android. In previous versions, you were shown a safety warning when increasing the volume past a certain point. In the new version, you still get the warning but the volume automatically falls back just under that threshold after several hours. This I assume is to protect the user’s hearing from damage that is caused by extended period of high volume playback.
Having used these features, I think their essence can be distilled in two points:
- Apply/delay-transition-to a state for a certain amount of time
- Allow reversing the action as if it never happened
I think keeping these two behaviors in mind when designing UIs can make products more accessible and give users confidence to experiment and learn about the product, knowing their mistakes don’t have permanent effect.