Smartphone UX: don't go back automatically 

September 18, 2016
347 words, a 2 minutes read

I think you encountered this before. Some apps go back to a previous screen automatically for easier use. Now this is a useful feature, but not if 

  • It didn’t work that way before
  • It doesn’t go back immediately without displaying the unneeded screen
  • The user has a physical back button too instead of just you displaying one on the app

Two examples

Facebook thought it was a very good idea to go back to the previous screen after playing a video. But only after a little delay. Now, think of this: do you ever close a video before you watched it through? I do, and that’s usually a bit before the end. So there’s two flows here

  • I close the video myself with the back button and end up on the previous screen at the correct position, usually a new page I discovered and want to watch through all its funny videos
  • The video closes itself but out of intuition I also press the back button (I was a split second late) and I end up on my news feed. I then have to go to the page again and scroll for ages

They did fix it now and reverted to you being in control of the back button, but that took a long time. 

Now another example I just encountered: Quora 

I reported an answer because it was just copy-paste from some “10 things to consider if you start a listicle” site. You have a screen to choose your reason, then it displays a little message at the bottom (same screen) saying it’s reported. Remember, you still see the reason screen. Then it automatically goes back. Now again, I was backing out myself a split second late and ended up on the feed. 

Note that almost all of this violates “forgiveness”. That means that in a touchscreen environment should expect your users to make mistakes or mistypes, more than on mouse and keyboard. Also, there should be a better way to get back to where you were on a long list of posts on smartphone apps.