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Are we all too busy?

Do your users pay attention to dialog box pop-ups? If you’re thinking, “yes, of course,” read on.

A recent study by members of the psychology department at North Carolina State University shows most people do not pay any attention to these dialog boxes – even when presented with information indicating potential malware.

The authors created four fake dialog boxes – one of them was indistinguishable from standard Windows dialog systems. From subtle (moving the mouse over the “OK” button would cause the cursor to turn to a hand — typical of browser control) to blatant (alternating between black text and a white background to white text on a black background), the dialog boxes should have been a tip-off to users that something wasn’t right.

The study was conducted by loading a series of medical websites to a panel of 42 college students, who were told to watch the sites and expect questions to follow. The fake dialog boxes were loaded randomly and the responses of the users were tracked. The response time showed the users did not spend any time evaluating the fakes. During the follow-up questions, students found “any dialog box a distraction from their assigned task; nearly half said that all they cared about was getting rid of these dialogs.”

Is there just no time for “dialog box speed bumps?” With the quick-answer Web-search service ChaCha growing in popularity, are we all too busy to even search for answers on the Web? Wasn’t that the point of the Web in the first place – a place to access information from all over the globe?

Are your users too busy to pay attention? Should you rethink the use of dialog boxes and consider another venue for that information?

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