How many times did you complete a form only to push the “Clear” button instead of “Submit”? What about “OK” vs. “Cancel” on a popup window? (Raises both hands — one for each.)
Why does this happen? Do we expect one button on the left and the other on the right? Are they too close together?
Jakob Nielsen reports that Windows applications put OK first, Cancel second while Apple places OK last. In this case, he advises developers to design OK/Cancel based on the platform they design for. The above screen shot comes from Thunderbird in Windows. The below image comes from Microsoft Word.
For Web forms, I suggest using one button. Of course, circumstances may prevent that. For example, you’re completing an order and you’re on the last page. Ecommerce sites certainly don’t want to give you another button to cancel the order, but users need assurance that they’ve canceled the order by pressing “Cancel Order” rather than just closing the window.
From my experience, I tend to read popup windows and zip through Web-based forms. I always assume software developers don’t create their popup windows the same way. But online forms — that’s another story. Silly, isn’t it? We shouldn’t expect Web designers to create forms the same way either.
Here, Nielsen gives two guidelines that make sense:
I think one more guideline would help especially where Web-based forms come in:
Many of us hit “Enter” when we finish a form or to begin searching (after entering keywords). Take care to prevent the application from executing something big when someone presses “Enter.”
You have to give Microsoft credit for its Windows XP shut down dialog box as shown below. Three options appear (Stand By, Turn Off, Restart) and each in a different color (yellow, red, green respectively) plus a Cancel button in gray and away from the others.
As users, we should look closely these windows and form buttons. In our fast-paced and overloaded world, we forget. Hence, keeping buttons at a reasonable distance from each other can give us the visual cue to look at the buttons.
What works for you? What doesn’t work?