More Idiotic Dialogs

Last year I wrote about dialog boxes and the annoyances they bring (Stopping the Proceedings for Idiocy). Recently, I’ve been greatly affected by a couple of really, really annoying dialogs; and they’re not even warning of really important things that you have or haven’t done… they are simply asking you if you are sure that you want to leave the application or website!

Here’s the one that’s affected me most often, due to many, many attempts to install Oracle Data Access Components for .Net on one of my machines:

The Exit Dialog for Oracle Universal Installer

It is perhaps worth saying that you get this dialog before, during and even after a supposedly successful installation. Of course, it can’t have been that successful if I’ve had to try so many times, can it? Anyway, perhaps it would be reasonable to have this dialog if you were trying to quit during an installation (that might, somehow, leave the your computer in an indeterminate state)… but at the end?

Along similar lines, one of my banks’ online-banking sites insists on asking for confirmation that you wish to log-off (click the image for a full-size copy):

Banking Website confirm logoff screen

What can have possessed the authors of this supposedly security conscious bank to place an obstacle in the way of leaving the system? Sure, as a user I did learn quickly that I needed to do this… but I wonder how many of their customers have not known it, or simply forgotten, and walked away from their screen with this message active. Within certain time constraints, someone else could then come up to the computer, and get back in to your ‘secure’ account.

It is conceivable that the developers thought; “Hey, we ask for quite a few bits of information for a successful login, what if someone accidentally clicked the log-off button? I know – let’s ask them to confirm their intention to log off!” But offset against the possible security implications, I would suggest that is crazy. The correct way, in my view, to assess this is to ask what harm has been, or could be done, in each scenario. For the case of someone logging off unintentionally, the harm is limited to them having to spend a few seconds logging in again. In the case of an unnoticed confirmation request, the harm could be loss of funds or at the minimum, someone gaining financial details that they should not have.

Another similar dialog, this time from Internet Explorer 7 with a media-player embedded is this one:

Leaving Internet Explorer radio window

This time, the negative consequences of the dialog are harder to ascertain. You may have navigated away from the page that provided you the link in the first place, and hey, it doesn’t take long to respond to the dialog, so why not have it there? I have less strong opinions about this dialog, but will observe that it is particularly dumb; it asks you this even if you have paused playback, and / or reached the end of what you were listening to. That puts it into the category of idiotic dialogs.

Finally for today, here’s an oldy that has wound me up a couple of times in the last week. This time not an exit dialog, but an apparently pointless one:

Dialog from Imaging program in Windows 2000

Now, this is software that is included with Windows 2000 (so maybe it’s a bit more mature now), but let’s face it, it is not a selling point of the operating system; in fact, MS probably want to keep it not being too good, because unless they decide they want to ‘run’ a particular market segment, they like to leave their major software authors with products to sell on the platform. But when I explain that it probably takes me longer to click the dialog OK button than it does for the software to create the relevant file, then this too is an idiotic dialog. Far better would have been to start creating the file, provide a cancellable progress dialog (which would self-close on finishing) – or a status bar message about being able to cancel the file creation if it was taking too long, or whatever.

What was I thinking? I’ve just checked Imaging for Windows on XP, and it has the same dialog.  Vista does not have Imaging.  In fact, even on Win 2000, I’d have been better off using the Paint accessory program.

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