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Cancel buttons on Web Forms

Yesterday I found myself agreeing with Jakob Neilsen (fairly rare for me) in a discussion with some colleagues.

We have a web application with several search screens, there is a big push for "Cancel" buttons on these forms, with cancel navigating you back to the section "home".

My argument was that, as you could navigate to that screen a number of ways the cancel button going to the home didn't make sense. I also did not agree with it being a "back" button either.

My feeling is, because you are not midway through any sort of transaction that needs to be committed, you don't need to "cancel". If you don't want to be there, simply navigate away using the menu.

Does anyone have thoughts on this ?

Thursday, October 18, 2001

The other side of argument is that some layman users will get stuck in the middle of this "transaction". ie they don't know very well the structure of your site and need some kind of guidance to get back on "track".

I know this sounds silly. Until you see (probably you have seen that) someone push the power down button of a pc while there are still couple of word, IE windows opened will you understand what the other half of the userbase of your website are like.

Friday, October 19, 2001

I am not sure which article from Nielsen you are referring to (URL?) so I might have misunderstood, but based on what you say, it seems to be a very bad idea for two reasons:

- Overloading.  A button called "cancel" should just cancel, not "cancel + navigate to another url"

- Unnecessary.  What's the difference between pressing Cancel and clicking on the "stop" button of your browser?

Friday, October 19, 2001

I believe the URL you're looking for is:

And yes, I agree completely. "Reset" buttons are a waste of space. I've never seen anyone use 'em in usability tests.

If you want a link to go back, make it a hyperlink and call it "back to home" or something like that.

My 2 cents.

Madhu Menon
Friday, October 19, 2001

I agree with the previous writers. Adding a Cancel button on a web form is an attempt to make it look and behave like a windows client. Don't think "windows client" when you design a web page!!

Jan Petter Hagberg
Tuesday, October 23, 2001

The cancel button is a basic and clear way of opting out. The word 'cancel' by definition is exactly what the user wants to do. From the average user's and vast majorities point of view, hitting the back button or navigating away from the page  does not 'cancel' what I'm doing. It's simply a physiological stepping stone, the user being re-assured that what they did has been 'cancelled'. Us developers know that you can 'cancel' the page many ways, but that’s because we have an in depth knowledge of the technology, must people don't understand the technology and really don't what to. So therefore most everything has to be spoon fed, or explicitly stated. It is a must, any argument on the topic is a wate of time.  The only case you wouldn't user it is for a developers form/site.

Monday, November 10, 2003

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