Dialogs? What for?

Last tuesday, while coming back home by metro, I spotted someone using an app on an Android that caught my attention. She was getting frustrated because some dialogs were showing up from time to time warning her about internet connection problems and similar errors.

This is wrong and to understand why, let’s first read what the android developers website says about dialogs.

A dialog is a small window that prompts the user to make a decision or enter additional information.

This means that the developer’s choice to use a dialog was wrong because the purpose was to inform the user and not to wait for the user to make a decision.

What happens in reality is that users nowadays are not willing to read messages and texts that they are not interested in. With the amount of stress and lack of time that most people suffer, they are expecting a fast and predictable user experience to achieve what they want, which causes people to skip messages and warnings that those dialogs were shown for.

And if we think about it again, why should we read a text on a dialog if the only way to proceed is to click on the ‘OK’ button? Therefore, as a rule of thumb, a Toast is ideal in these situations when we only want to inform the user, with the advantage that is much less invasive than a dialog.

As you know, even Android itself does not follow this rule all the time, namely when the system shows the credit balance after a call, but this situation should be seen as an exception to the rule (due to historical reasons).

However an app shouldn’t be prompting the user for an action every time it needs to perform an operation. From time to time, I come across with apps that ask too many times (or in the wrong moments) the “Yes or No” question. Therefore, keep in mind the following principle:

A ‘Yes or No’ question should only be asked when there is no way to revert the changes the app is about to make.

This means that it only makes sense to use it in cases such as a payment or a deletion of data that can’t be recreated (or that takes too long to do it), etc.

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As an Android Developer, I believe that every application should be as simple and as easy to use as possible. Currently a GDG Lisbon organizer.

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