To "Cancel" in the parlance of our times

How awkward would face-to-face interactions be if you could no longer answer questions with a simple "Yes" or "No", but instead had to speak using the same button terminology commonly seen on your phone or computer?

"Are you ready to pay for these clothes?"


"We need to scan your bags for security. Is that okay?" SUBMIT!

"Would you like to add a side of fries to your order?" APPLY!

"Would you like to apply for this position?" CONFIRM!

Imagine the weird looks you're going to get as they slowly back away from you...

Yet, if a pop-up window appeared on your screen right now with any of those words on a button or two, you probably wouldn't bat an eye. After all, you've seen these labels being used to describe actions day-in and day-out across so many different digital applications, websites, forms, messages, notices, warnings, and other interface designs. 

However, sometimes they get the better of us. A curve ball is thrown and you can't tell which button will get you what you want or which will ruin your day. 


Which button won't erase all of the form data that you've been entering for the past hour? 

Which button won't send out a photo to your friends or colleagues that you didn't mean to attach?

Which button won't discard the draft article that you're currently writing?

You better choose carefully! 

So, why are we often confronted with these potentially confusing choices in critical moments?

Overall, it's because we, as a whole, still aren't designing interactions from our users' and customers' perspectives. And, I say "we" because it usually takes a team to get something designed, developed, and out the door; there's a lot of people who could have spoken up, but alas, usability issues keeping finding a way to slip through. 

Lucky for me, Squarespace does an overall decent job at making my choices understandable

Lucky for me, Squarespace does an overall decent job at making my choices understandable

Enabling someone to make an informed choice requires them to be able to understand the question, the outcomes, and the possible answers. 

But what language was used when documenting the step-by-step process that the customers would go through? What language was used when discussing how the data would flow between the website and the database? More often than not, "we" have a habit of speaking from a systems' point of view and that inevitably translates into what the end-user sees.

Ask your questions like you would if you had to speak face-to-face and practice using their language in your day-to-day work. 

Let's work together on breaking this habit. 


...and yes, this article's title should have reminded you of The Big Lebowski.