Confusing confirmation messages and the day I got fined for not parking my bike correctly

Confirmation messages seem like an easy thing to design, but the truth is they are not. And because they seem easy to design, we- product managers, designers- sometimes don’t pay much attention to what we are doing, and built applications that throw very confusing messages. These are three curious examples that I’ve had to deal with, and my suggestions to improve them.

bicing

It’s been a while since I stopped using Bicing but I remember one of the things I didn’t like from their service is that, every time I parked a bike, they confirmed the transaction with a message in color red. In my unconscious  – and in lots of people’s- red means wrong, warning, danger. I get it, red is also their corporate color, but you shouldn’t use just red for a confirmation message if you want your users to think the transaction went through successfully, should you?

Suggestions: I would, at least, use a green √ or, in its absence, a huge- and I mean huge- “Congratulations” message.

minchador

My parents run a restaurant in Calella (Barcelona) and they had never used online marketing nor accepted online reservations until I convinced them to do so.  The system that we use, Minchador, sends us an email- me in that case, because they don’t really like computers- with the information for the reservation, and then it needs to be confirmed by us. Leaving aside the fact that I live in San Francisco and my parents’ restaurant is in Calella, so it’s a nine hour time difference we are talking about here, I find it is a good and practical system. The customer makes a reservation, I receive an email, check availability, confirm, the customer receives a confirmation email. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Problem here is that most of the times, customers don’t realize they are not making a reservation but asking for it, and that it needs to be confirmed.

This the confirmation message they get when they send the form:

conf-lescaves

Suggestions: Hihglighting the confirmation message in a color that is not green, for instance orange. Why not green? Nothing went wrong, but the reservation is not confirmed neither finished yet. I wouldn’t use red either, because as I’ve said, nothing went wrong. You could also show the users they are not finished by using step 1, 2, etc. indications. Another option would be to show a telephone number along with the confirmation message, so that the customers can call if they don’t want to wait for a confirmation email. Showing an estimated wait time, don’t just say “we’ll confirm your reservation whenever we are able to”, say in less than n hours and if you can’t control that, make the users of the system- the restaurants in this particular case- commit with their customers. And finally, explaining the users how are they going to receive the confirmation message. Is it going to be an email? A text message? A phone call?

airbnb

Try contacting a host through Airbnb without being logged in. The confirmation message is not color-confusing, and the text is big enough, the problem here is that, due to the over information we are used to, or messages like “click here to share with your Facebook friends” and “click here to share on Twitter”,  we’ve become blind and sometimes, don’t properly process those so needed confirmation messages. I understand there are other reasons to design such a confirmation message- more users that connect their Airbnb and Facebook accounts, for instance- but that doesn’t mean that, strictly from a user perspective, the message can be confusing.

I’ve recorded a video to better illustrate my point: http://screencast.com/t/wLEvEbVVe3g

What was my experience contacting hosts? After the “confirmation message”, which is not a confirmation message but a “register-or-your-email-won’t-be-send message”, I just closed the window. Next day I thought, ‘mmmm that is weird, yesterday I contacted 10 apartments and I haven’t received a single answer‘. Want to know why? I had sent no emails at all, I had only wrote them and closed all the windows thinking they had been sent, but they hadn’t. And then I rembered that this hasn’t been the first but the second time this happened to me.O_o

Suggestions: Using colors or icons. Colors and icons are a clear indicator of transactions going or not going through. Keeping the form behind the alert message so users can understand that they are not finished sending the form. Focusing on the signup/ login, not on the Facebook connect. I don’t like connecting Facebook with other applications but, if I am required to do so when I am about to contact a host of a room I am interested to rent, I will. No need to convince me with “your friends are using Airbnb”, I already have a strong motivation to signup/ login: your product.

The day I got a 250 euro fine for not parking my bike correctly

Every time I parked my Bicing bike, I thought ‘oh, wait, something went wrong’. Until one day, I stopped worrying about it. One day I received a 250 euro fine because I hadn’t parked the bike correctly and somehow, it got lost. I am not blaming the confirmation messages, but they obviously didn’t help🙂

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