Undo: The Best Feature for Everything


Let’s take a step back and for now relax and indulge ourselves with a feature that may or may not be possible: an undo button for everything. Yes, it’s the undo button. Everything needs an undo button. From social media websites, email clients, overwriting files, submitting forms, and almost everything. Don’t you just get that feeling that you confirmed too fast and would like to reverse your decision? Well, you are not alone. So, web designers and web developers out there, pretty please?

Why am I so eager about this?

The current acceptable form of “final” decision is actually in form of an alarming warning. “Doing this will delete your existing file,” fine, delete it. Oops, I take that back. Sorry, you can’t. So why not, instead of hitting the final nail, give users the option to go back in time and fix whatever stupid mistake has been made? Humans are rash creatures that need a second chance, always.

I understand the limitations of technology, and I also understand that having an undo button for everything is computationally taxing for the developers and the system. I just want to indulge in this topic because it’s fun!

Where should the almighty Undo button be?

It should be placed at every final stage of decision and should never be removed as long as the whole thing is processed. Like, on email, if the receiver has already opened the file you can’t undo it anymore. On online stores, once the processing has already begun you can’t undo. Just give the people the chance to undo any time it is still possible to do so.

On Email


For sure I’m not the only one who has sent a client, or a lover, the wrong email, right? It is interesting to note that Gmail has an undo feature, but you still have to enable it. There’s also a similar feature with different desktop email clients.

To enable, go to your Mail Settings -> Labs -> find Undo and Enable. Want more Gmail tips and tricks?


Gmail gives its users the chance to delete, move, and do things within gmail and still offer an undo for everything. Deleted a file? You can undo that. Deleted your trash? Nope, that’s the final nail. At least Gmail gave you three chances: selecting the email to delete, the undo button, and the trash.

On Forms

Like, on impulse you registered your email for a website’s newsletter but you really regret doing so. Unsubscribing takes a lot of time because first you’ll have to find the page where you can unsubscribe, or check your inbox for instructions on how to unsubscribe. Why can’t we just click “undo” and everything’s back to normal?

On Overwriting Files

Mostly for desktop files and files on your server. “Doing this will overwrite your existing data,” so what? Then a moment after that a revolution inside your head will occur, “wrong file!!!” And things get nasty.

We have “undo move” and “undo rename” but why can’t we have “undo overwrite”?

With Google Docs you won’t have to worry about saving and overwriting things because it offers every possible revision you’ve made. So if you’re still using Microsoft Word, or another desktop application for writing, I suggest you switch to Google Docs because it’s far safer.

Until “undo overwrite” comes, I guess we’ll have to keep backups of our important files.

On Payments

Another great call-to-action buttons or creative advertisement suckered you into another impulse buy? You hit the ‘Buy Now!’ button only to realize you really don’t need whatever you just confirmed a payment for. I’m sure these online stores don’t process your purchase instantly, so why not give people the chance to undo the whole transaction any time within a set grace period, like an hour or so before they actually process the whole thing.

On Support Tickets


Recently I’ve submitted several support tickets to my previous web host (I left! Oh, the freedom!) because of the very bad service they’re giving me. Of course, I first asked if they noticed a problem with their servers, or if they can help me fix a 302 redirect. Then I told them my website has been slow for a week now, and is experiencing downtime everyday! Some of these I’ve solved on my own, some not. I guess what I’m trying to say is, why can’t I just undo other tickets that I’ve solved on my own so that they won’t be bothered with it anymore?

On Blog Comments


There are blog commenting systems that do not offer the option to delete or edit a comment after you’ve made/posted it. Most often you’ll see stupid remarks or spelling and grammar errors that the person who made the mistake finds really embarrassing and wish they could just vanish off the face of the earth or just change their name. Sometimes emotion gets the best of people and they simply shout in ALL CAPS ABOUT THEIR RAGE!!!!! Good thing on Twitter and Facebook you can delete your comments and posts, but readers of 1stwebdesigner can’t (I can. mwuahaha).

Having access to the comments, because I moderate them, I’ve seen a ton of comments saying “to the admin, please disregard this and my other comment,” or “admin, I made a mistake, can you change ____ to ___?” I’d be happy to assist you, but wouldn’t it be better if an undo button was present just after you sent it for moderation?

On Chat/IMs

Skype has it…and I think it’s the only one. Why can’t we undo/delete our IMs on Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo Messenger, and Google? I feel exceptionally awkward when I IM someone and he/she doesn’t reply for a very long time, making me wish I could take back what I just said/asked.

Disclaimer and Conclusion and Your Turn

This article is a product of my imagination and is meant to serve as both comedic relief for your tense shoulders and to simply state the obvious things we need. This may be possible, or technically exhausting, but wouldn’t it be very cool to have an undo button for everything? Eliminate those confirm, cancel, delete, yes, and other buttons and replace them with undo!

So, what do you think? Feel free to add to the list, I’m sure I missed something..somewhere.



  1. Steven Noble

    Ah the good old undo! Where would we be without it in this day and age? I can imagine what it was like hundreds of years ago when getting to the end of a page, making a mistake, and having to re-do the entire page.

    I would love the email undo to be implemented across the board. So far I have to say I’ve never sent an email to the wrong person, but I always have to check and double check and sometimes even triple check just to make sure it’s going to the right person before I send it. Even then I come back to it a few hours later just to make sure. I’ve heard some bad stories of wrong email recipients in the past, hopefully I never have to tell my own!

  2. Matt

    Not a terrible plan… just unreasonable at times. For instance, deleting files. You delete a file on most OS’s and unless you have turned it off, you’re prompted to confirm. So you confirm, and it goes to the recycle bin. So then I go there, and I say empty recycle bin. Should it then go to recycle bin level 2? And beyond that, level 3 and 4?

    I think a better option here is to look at the things that people make stupid decisions over and provide better than the standard “Are you sure” dialogue.

    That dialogue is way to common these days, people don’t pay attention until it is too late.

    In other words, train instead of holding hands. IMO