Click monkeys, or why popups are bad

For anyone who’s used a Vista operating system, you are familiar with the famous security question screen popping up every now and again.  For years we’ve suffered through these alert boxes and messages that programs and operating systems have pushed at us, and we have all become numb to them.  Without a second thought, most of us click ‘OK’ and don’t bother reading what it actually says, we just want the box to go away because it’s getting in the way of what we were doing.  Let me note that my security software just now threw up a box asking me to allow the Bonjour service to connect to a website.  A new study out there finds this fact out: only half care at all.  Most just want the annoyance gone (and have to deal with the consequences later).  Some will minimize it if there’s an option, to come back to it later since they’re busy, and a very few will actually read it, even though half the time they have no idea what it means.

So what does this mean?  This means that if you come in to our custom website application programming requesting a popup box for something on your site, you will get me telling you that it’s a bad idea.  At most, I would prefer adding a popup box that looks nothing like the standard windows boxes, so that it is noticed and perhaps actually read before an ‘OK’ or ‘cancel’ is clicked.

The other thing that it means is, there’s no wonder why so much malware gets installed on computers.  If you had a box pop up on some website, you’re going to half read it and click something, ‘OK’ or ‘cancel,’ and just make it go away.  What if the box said ‘If you click cancel, we will install a keylogger to steal all your passwords’?  Most people probably wouldn’t have seen it.  What if the message box said ‘Error 0x00567455m occurred at memory location 03EF.  Click ‘OK’ to fix this error.’  A higher percentage of people might be OK with being OK on this one, because it might look like a windows error, and in reality it gives the OK to install something nasty.

So, next time you see the box, think about your Pavlovian response and instead actually read it. Chances are it’s information you do not understand or even need to know, but you never know.