Can You Save Users From Themselves?

Posted By Debbie on February 15, 2018

One area where UX can make someone’s day is saving a user from himself or herself. In order to do that, you will need good UX research telling you more about your users’ likely behaviors, motivations, habits, locations, etc…

What might this user do that she will later wish she could undo? What might this user do that will later have him calling customer service in a frenzy, hoping someone can fix it?


To me, that’s the number one area where we can save people from themselves. How many times companies must get the customer service call or email, “I didn’t mean to delete that!” or “I deleted the wrong thing and can’t get it back” or “I thought I didn’t need it but it turns out I do!”

For a moment, I’ll use Quickbooks Online as a model. They kept my data available online for what felt like over a year after I closed an old company of mine. Why? Why not tell me you cancelled, you closed, you must be done?

Because they know what will happen next. It’s tax time and that user realises she didn’t have everything she needed. Maybe I sold the company and oops I need some of my old data. So many reasons to need something I thought I didn’t need.

That data was available to me for at least a year and I still see a ghost link to it when I log in. They are saving me from myself.

You can’t go wrong doing this.

If I DON’T need that data then I ignore the link or ghost link to it. I know it’s there, that’s nice, but I don’t need it.

Message the purge date.

Keep the user’s “deleted” data around a little longer. I’ll even allow you to lie to them. Say you’re keeping it for 30 days. Keep it for 60 days. Even 90 days. But warn them that the data will be purged in X days on June 1, 2018.

The Quickbooks Online link also said on what date the data will be completely purged and no longer available. That is helpful messaging. It’s a good model to follow.

Many mistakes are easy to undo. Deleting is hard or impossible to undo. Make the user’s day, month, or year by having what they thought was gone. Predict what your users are likely to do and build them a system that gives them more help and support than they even expected.

Nobody should have to say, “I deleted it by accident, I didn’t notice for a week, and by then, the company said they had no way to restore it for me.”