We’ve all been there. You hit the back button in a browser, but you’re stuck in a loop on the website you were trying to leave. A rogue ad takes over your screen with no obvious way to close it. Or maybe it’s something simpler; you just feel stuck in a piece of software, and so you hit every button or key in sheer panic to get out.
Now, Google is designing its UI to accommodate this specific moment of user panic. In Android 7.1, the company debuted a “Panic Detection” mode. Spotted by XDA Developers, it’s code within Android that spots when you start tapping the screen like a panicked woodpecker. And when you do, the OS automatically takes you back to the home screen. It’s like an emergency eject button for UX, based upon pure, frustrated, human fight or flight response.
Panic detection is a great idea we’d like to see spread to more platforms. Dark patterns hide everywhere, and the operating system is often the only thing we have left protecting us, the users, in those moments where external forces trap us in an interaction. Recognizing when we’re panicked brings operating systems one step closer to understanding users.
All of this said, it’s worth noting that Google has built an app ecosystem that’s necessitated such a solution. With fewer restrictions than Apple’s App Store, and a slew of more subversive apps that can actually hijack the buttons of your phone, it’s easy to get trapped in deep-seeded dark patterns with no escape. And as many developers have already pointed out, while Google’s solution is promising, it still doesn’t actually close the potentially dangerous app that you were just stuck inside. The user will need to take that step themselves and attempt what could be a tricky uninstallation process–once they’ve regained their composure from tap panic.