Usability Questions: Do We Really Need a Cancel Button?

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As more forms are being transferred to the Internet and away from paper copies, their online creators must take the time needed to assess which layout will be the most effective. One top layout issue generating a large amount of debate is the cancel button. Specifically, the issue of whether or not to include a cancel button has become quite controversial.

While there are uses for the cancel button, when it comes to simple online form completion, a strong movement is forming to ban this button from such forms and simplify the user interface. Here are two reasons why this cancel button opposition movement is gaining such momentum.

1. Less User Confusion

Nothing is more confusing to online form users than deciding if the cancel button is to cancel completely out of the form or if it will take them to the previous page of the form. If the user clicks cancel thinking it will take them to the previous form page, only to be closed out of the program, they will not be happy with you as the form creator.

When assessing the true purpose of the cancel button, there simply is no need for it on most online forms. If users want to navigate back to a previous form page, they can simply click the back button on their web browser. Additionally, if, for some reason, a user needs to cancel out of the form, they can simply close their web browser.

2. Fewer Mistakes

A major frustration among Internet users is having completed the last page of an important form only to accidentally click the cancel button rather than the submit button. This is a frustration you never want to happen to your form users because, more often than not, it results in the abandonment of the form. If the purpose of the form is to generate more customers, then you could be missing out on crucial sales without knowing it.

Effective Cancel Button Uses

While the cancel button has no business appearing on most online forms, it does have a few important uses. One important location to include a cancel button is on status bars. This is an important location to include a cancel button because, if for some reason the user accidentally begins a download, they should be given the option to cancel out of that download. Providing this option will result in fewer download errors and less user frustration.

Another top location where cancel buttons are effective is on confirmation pop-up windows. These windows ask the user if they truly want to begin a download or some other process. As such, including a cancel button is crucial to allow the user to cancel out of the window if needed.

The debate over cancel button uses will certainly continue as more processes transfer to the online world. However, care must be taken to view the cancel button usage from a customer’s standpoint rather from the creator’s perspective. By doing this, the most common user frustrations can be eliminated to improve user satisfaction.

This is a guest post by Aimee Sway, blogging for, the premiere UK printing services provider. Follow her on Twitter @PrintExpressUK and like on Facebook!

Aimee Sway
Aimee Sway, blogging for, the premiere online printing company. Follow her on Twitter @PrintExpressUK and like on Facebook!
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