Interfaces: no undo musings

Today I did the most stupid thing I could do. I deleted ALL of my emails from one of my business’ accounts. How, you may ask did I do such a thing? I am not a newbie, I know my way around the computer, the web, the software, and I am a preacher of saving, backing up, and archiving. How did I do this, then? I was in an unfamiliar interface and I got confused with the icons and instructions. I did not know my way around it. But let me tell you what led me to this interface.

My login credentials in my email software had been rejected by this business’ server. Not once, but twice. Tried again, and the same thing. This went on for an entire day. That does not seem like much if part of the interactions happened in person. But being that I work remotely, in person interactions are not an option. Thus, a day is, feels like a week. I get a quite a few amount of emails every day from prospects and current contacts. Not being able to email back was making anxious. So, I went to the website email. It was partly in German but I was able to make some things out. So, I thought I would be okay. Only to discover that my mailbox was 90% full. Now I had another problem. I could not do anything on the email site because between a few more emails and attachments, it got full. Or at least, that was the message it gave me. I could not just delete because it seemed that deleting put the files in another folder. Hence, they were still on my mailbox. I had to trash them.

And I did trash them. What I did not realize at the time was that there was no “undo” and that selecting ALL meant all that is on my mailbox, not just on the page. I had 57 pages of emails or the equivalent of 3 years of emails. I proceeded to select all not knowing that ALL meant ALL of my emails and the files were gone. Ay, ay, ay. I looked for my beloved undo button and nope, there was none. At least, I think and felt that there was none.

…should an interface be intuitive enough for a first or second time user to find their way around with little or no instructions? Or should using a site require familiarity with it?

I had difficulty finding my way around the user interface. I was unfamiliar with it. To be fair, I had only been on the email site twice in three years. But this begs the question, should an interface be intuitive enough for a first or second time user to find their way around with little or no instructions? Or should using a site require familiarity with it? I am torn because I relied so much on my email software, which I really like and understand, that I did not feel the need to go to the site to learn this other interface. This site’s interface is not complicated. It is very neutral, you may say. It lacks personality and color. It is, to me, the equivalent of a very cold and austere hospital from where one wants to get out as soon as they are pronouncing the words “dismissed.” My email program, however, is friendly, familiar, I want to hang out a little, is user-friendly, and well, I understand it. And it is not just the language, it is also the icons, the colors, the contrast, and the lovely warnings I get when I am about to delete something making sure it is not a mistake.

Well, there is no recovery of these files but luckily I keep good records on my file system and have been able to contact the most recent contacts. Understanding an interface matters a lot when your business depends on it. Making user-friendly interfaces that are warm and have some personality or even interact a little with the user seems to be desirable. But… having an UNDO button is vital! I breathe undo, undo, undo, undo. Or pressing command z, command z, command z. I will live. I hope my contacts forgive me if I do not reply an email from some time ago because now it is like searching in the non-existent land.


Photo by susivinh



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