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Re: "next" and "previous" steps in a user interaction, link or button?


From: Elle
Date: May 26, 2013 7:24PM


Based on my experiences from usability testing and extensive research from
Nielsen Norman Group about application design and user interaction models,
I think buttons usually make more sense for the "Back" and "Next" actions
in this scenario. This is because, like forms, you're really talking about
a system or application-like interface when you go into a multi-step
process. Website pages are informational in nature, whereas applications
are task-based in nature. For this, the path to completion becomes an
essential component. Often times, just like with web forms, in a multi-step
process interface you may have contextual help links and other
supplementary information that's activated via hyperlink as on-page
information. Having the "Back" and "Next" actions as buttons helps to
distinguish them from site navigation and other in-page links. In other
words, it helps to separate what a user can do within the page itself
(largely static information, again, like a website) from what a user can do
to advance to the next step or go back to the previous step (i.e.
task-based, application).


If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the people to gather wood,
divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast
and endless sea.
- Antoine De Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

On Sun, May 26, 2013 at 8:27 PM, Birkir R. Gunnarsson <
<EMAIL REMOVED> > wrote:

> Hey gagn
> This is mostly out of theoretical interest.
> I have read a lot of articles by accessibility experts, such as mr
> Karl Grove's, talking about the link vs. button debate, a link is a
> link and a button is a button.
> Links take you to a new location, either on the same page or to a new page.
> A button performs a user action, such as submitting a form, completing
> a registration etc.
> What when an object does a bit of both?
> A good example is to complete one step of a process and moving on to
> the next one (or to a previous one if one wishes to modify previously
> submitted info).
> This is very common, for instance when booking a trip or purchasing a
> product (adding to shopping card, verifying order, providing shipping
> info and options, providing billing info).
> Going to the next or previous steps loads a new page, and, therefore,
> should be served up as a link, but it is also an action, albeit part
> of a set of actions, so one could argue that a button is more
> appropriate.
> From a screen reader perspective, I would advicate the use of a button
> here. I do this mostly because users should have a clear, simple and
> immediate way to complete the process they are undertaken. Therefore
> they should need an HTML object that is unique to the page and simple.
> Using a link in this scenario is not good because every other item on
> the page (or most of them) is a link as well .. product image,
> description, navigation menu etc.
> If these be made into buttons, they usually are the only buttons on
> the page, so a user of pretty much any screen reader can navigate to
> these immediately.
> But the world does not revolve around screen reader users, definitely not.
> What about speech recognition software or keyboard simulators.
> I would think that having these actions presented as buttons rather
> than links enables these users to quickly navigate to them as well.
> Are the next and previous links often presented in a unique way
> visually (such as deploying a different background or color .. I often
> see special .css classes applied to these things).
> If anyone has given this a thought, has an official recommendation, or
> would like to contemplate further, definitely drop this list a line.
> Cheers
> -B
> > > >