Years down the drain: Facebook’s broken UI
Today, I irreversably lost three years of posts and comments on Facebook. Three years of memories, discussions, and conversations: lost to the ether. How? I missed the target area for a button by a single pixel.
Periodically, I like to clean up my Facebook timeline and remove boring posts that didn’t get any activity. This requires navigating to my timeline and performing the following steps:
- Hover over the post to delete to expose the a downward facing chevron.
- Click on the chevron to get a drop-down menu.
- Click Delete to expose a confirmation modal dialog.
- Click the Delete button in the dialog.
- Find the next post to delete and go back to step 1.
Pretty simple, right? Almost. Here’s what the confirmation dialog looks like when you delete a post that was imported via a third-party service, like Twitter:
That’s right: on the confirmation dialog to delete a single post, there is a checkbox next to Cancel that initiates a unrelated, far more destructive action that deletes everything. That action has no undo and no separate confirmation: if you check it, Facebook will delete everything posted by Twitter ever.
That’s pretty bad UI to begin with, but it gets worse: the entire gray bar at the bottom of the dialog checks that option. If you misclick either the Cancel or Delete buttons by a single pixel, you will check the history eraser option. Here’s a video demonstration:
You can probably guess what happened: when performing a routine delete post action, I quickly misclicked the Delete button then clicked it again, not realizing until it was pressed that my misclick checked the “delete everything” option.
And sure enough, a few minutes later, all of my posts from Twitter—which constituted the vast majority of my activity through Facebook—were deleted.
I looked around, and found the Facebook support page that tersely explains that deletions are permanent. But alas! This is a special case! Surely there’s some way to contact Facebook support and plead my case? Nope: even GetHuman has not been able to find any way to contact Facebook for support issues.
This is broken. There are a number of ways this could’ve been mitigated:
- Don’t include a massively destructive option in a confirmation dialog for deleting a single option.
- If someone checks the massively destructive option, provide a second confirmation dialog confirming that option.
- Alternatively, provide an undo option.
- Confine the target area of the massively destructive option to the checkbox itself, not the entire bottom third of an unrelated confirmation dialog.
- All of the above.
But instead, we’re left with a crappy UI and my Facebook activity is a lot less extant. Disappointing. If you’re on Facebook’s UI team, please fix this.1 If you’re working on your own UI, please use Facebook’s current delete workflow as a great example of what not to do.
Shortly after I published this post, Daniel Lo Nigro, a front-end developer at Facebook, reached out to me and let me know they were working on a fix. Sure enough, a few months later, I noticed Facebook quietly updated the dialog to completely remove the history eraser checkbox:
And maybe see if my posts could be restored? Had to try. ↩
Comments and feedback are welcome and appreciated. Need help on your next project? Let's talk.