Friday, 13 November 2009

Cancel: button or link?

At work we're having a bit of a feud over whether the Cancel "action" on a web form should be a link or a button. I can see good arguments in both directions. I end up leaning a little toward the link camp.


  • Desktop applications tend to have buttons, not links
  • It's less important which standard you pick, than that you pick one.


My preference is to have a cancel link, if it's possible to maintain a stateless feel on the form. If the user feels like the server is building some state, sie'd feel safer with an explicit forget it action - a button. Otherwise, just offer a link to navigate off the page (subtly hinting that it's safe to do so, by, for example, putting this link next to the confirm button) and be done with it.

I would, however, tip my hat to the button camp: I'd avoid labeling the link as "Cancel". The string "Cancel" is simply too deeply associated with desktop application dialog boxes' cancel button for a link with the same label not to cause an interrupt.

I'm now looking for alternative ways of expressing "Cancel", that don't sound awkward, and are short enough to act as an anchor

A related question is whether OK/Cancel or Cancel/OK is better. But that's an orthogonal issue, not for this post.


  1. If your users are likely to use your web form frequently, using a link to cancel the form will also "educate" them about the fact that cancelling doesn't *do* anything - that it is, in fact, just like navigating away from the form. This builds that feeling of safety that is so precious.

    Another link:

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