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The Apple TV’s “Sleep Now” Button: A lesson in button feedback


A man works on a storyboard UX flow.
Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

We’ve all done it. We open Settings, go all the way to the bottom, and click. And then click again.

The experience

The second and third generation Apple TVs had a terrible Sleep Now button. When you wanted to put your Apple TV to sleep, you would go to the Settings app and click Sleep Now. The problem was, the TV wouldn’t actually “Sleep Now.” It would sleep in a couple seconds. After you hit the button, you would have to wait a second for the screen to go black and the TV to actually go to sleep.

Quite often, because there was no indication that you had successfully clicked the button, you would quickly try again. The TV would fall asleep from your first click, and then turn back on again because you clicked the second time.

There might have been a technical reason that the Apple TV wouldn’t sleep instantly after you hit the button, but the problem was that that was what you expected. Practically every other button in the Apple TV interface reacted instantly, but this button gave no feedback and a delayed reaction.

Nothing happened when you clicked the button. The TV would go to sleep, yes, but that was later. At the moment you clicked, you had no way to tell that you had clicked. That was the problem.

Feedback is necessary

Feedback is not only necessary in your UI, the user comes to expect it. They’re actually looking for an indication that their action was noted.

You always need to give the user some form of visible, audible, or haptic feedback for an action. No excuses.

I’m not telling you what kind of feedback you need, or how to implement it, as those are both problems specific to each individual project, but the feecback must exist in some way. Otherwise, you’re unknowingly misleading your users.

There are numerous ways Apple could have solved this button problem, from making the screen go black instantly, to adding a spinning loading wheel as soon as the user clicks “Sleep Now,” to even just changing the button text to something like “Sleeping…”

But they didn't, and the result was a terrible user experience that involved accidentally waking your Apple TV up again almost every time you tried to put it to sleep.

Conclusion

Interaction feedback is necessary. It informs the user that the action they took matters. It doesn’t tell them that something was successful, or that something failed, but that their action was noted.

Thanks for reading!

More reading on buttons and feedback:


The Apple TV’s “Sleep Now” Button: A lesson in button feedback was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.