[LINK] Study shows pop-up warnings are ineffective

Ivan Trundle ivan at itrundle.com
Wed Oct 1 13:00:59 EST 2008

On 01/10/2008, at 12:22 PM, Glen Turner wrote:

> I prefer to play blame the designer. Why do web sites need to produce
> popup screens? Is that need so important that it is worth the risk of
> misleading users?

This is a useful question to ask. I'm involved in the development of  
code that does exactly this, and the debate continues to excite  
designers and pundits alike. We've tried both pop-ups and 'in-situ'  
approaches, and there is, in our particular circumstances, metrics to  
show us that pop-ups work best for what we are trying to achieve - but  
then the pop-up is in effect another window, with functionality to  
capture input. We've tried both, but users that we deal with prefer to  
have the ability to open multiple pop-ups, and manage them according  
to their needs.

> Why does the popup have the same window decoration
> as windows from more trusted sources?

And this is equally important: users expect levels of predictable  
behaviour from their computer, and if any action is likely to subvert  
this, trust is lost.

It's interesting that some Linkers have declared that they use  
Firefox, and manage javascript and popups etc with plugins. I'd say  
that this is a reflection of the level of skills and aptitude of  
Linkers generally, and not of the wider public. This is why I  
suggested that some of us are 'diehard's - and not in the sense that  
it was outmoded, or cavalier, but rather that we are more expert, but  
that the expertise is not filtering into the wider community.

 From my experience (in my travels, I get to see a good deal of very  
different computing environments), the norm is to use Internet  
Explorer with all guns blazing. I've noted this in environments as  
different as out in the bush, to inside government departments, or in  
large, medium and small multinationals. Whilst the larger  
organisations manage their desktop security reasonably well, I've only  
ever come across one organisation (a large IT multinational) which  
actively blocks the use of javascript. I'm sure that there are others,  
however - I'm merely recounting what I've come across in the last 20  
months or so.

Most computer users that I engage with either know very little about  
how to manage their own desktop (both in the workplace and at home),  
or rely entirely on their IT department (or their kids at home) to  
keep things tidy, or to clean up the after-effects of malicious  

I'm also amazed at how many people complain that their home computer  
is a mess, and impossible to manage: almost to the point of being in a  
constant battle with the software, and with very little trust, and no  
power or skills to change. Few Windows users that I meet show any  
signs of trusting their computer.

Perhaps that's why the Mac/Linux/etc market share is rising again: for  
most Mac users in particular, it's a very different environment, to  
the point that trust is rarely an issue.


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