Ok, Done, Cancel, Next… buttons

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In a post which I wrote previously, I talked about the power of the “done” button (among others).

I’ve recently been working on a lot of IA and am finding myself coming back to the essential contents on this post.  Along with this is the discussion between alignment of said buttons and orientation.


So many interfaces (including mobile devices) differ in the placement.  Even the organizational order of which comes first first next, if it’s left, center, or right aligned – all of which seem to differ.  I remember the other day being confused at the store when the touch-device upgrade changed where the buttons were… I ended up accidentally canceling a transaction because they moved the cancel button to where the enter previously was!  Do they really think everyone reads the buttons every single time?

A blog that I’ve read on a few occasion points to a very strong opinion on this based on user tracking Why ‘OK’ buttons … best on the right .

I feel that it comes down to contextual consistency.  There are some cases where anything which is a “moving forward” action item is on the left, at which point, that platform has made a consistent effort to instill the expectation for the user to locate anything which requires action to be placed in its own space on the left, as though the person was reading and moving to the next line.

Then there is the windows phone 7 platform.  This one goes all over the map, but always within the means of contextual navigation.  Related actions which bring you to new screens are centered and to the bottom.  Specific navigation within the context of the content delivered on the screen (such as going to contacts and then touching someone’s name to get to their profile) is directly delivered in-line, while sections of globally related content are a slide/pan left or right (think of a top-menu navigation on the web.  This would be a series of globally related content items – they relate to the website and support its purpose… hopefully).

Then there are installations of applications – this one is where I get my pantyhose in a bunch where the windows platform is concerned.  Every application seems to take a different direction.  Some have the buttons side by side, aligned to the right, but with the “next” button first and the “cancel” second.  Some have those buttons flipped, some have the next button all the way on the left where the cancel is all the way on the right…

There are so many variations!  Personally, it makes sense to me that if I’m going to the next screen, that I’ll look for the next button to be directionally placed – to the far right.  Where the cancel button is can differ, but this is where wayfinding comes in.  We as human beings use a whole lot of wayfinding metaphors.  They make the best sense considering where we’ve come from on an evolution sort of way.

What do you think?  Should there be a standard regardless of platform?  Is it contextual?  How would you make that decision if you were the one with the power to instill that decision – or do you even think about it?