Friday, September 07, 2007

Primary & Secondary Actions in Web Forms

Distinguishing between primary and secondary actions on a form ...

"In recent months, I’ve been working on refining the design recommendations in my upcoming book, Web Form Design Best Practices, through actual usage data. To that end, I’ve had the pleasure of working with London-based usability firm Etre on several eye-tracking and usability studies focused on specific aspects of Web form design. One of these tests focused on the distinction between primary and secondary actions.

Primary & Secondary Actions
A typical Web form usually enables several “final” actions. Actions like “Submit”, “Save”, or “Continue” are intended to enable form completion –the primary goal of just about anyone who has started filling in a form. Because they enable the most important action on the form (completion), they are often referred to as primary actions.

Secondary actions, on the other hand, tend to be less utilized and most often allow people to retract the data they’ve entered. Options like “Cancel”, “Reset”, or “Go Back” represent secondary actions that are counter to most people’s primary goal of completing the form they started.

Because secondary actions can have negative consequences, especially when used unintentionally, I’ve often argued they should be absent from forms. Imagine filling in a long form online only to hit the “Reset” button and have all your data erased.

That said there are situations where secondary actions make sense (“Save for later”, “Export”, etc.). In these conditions, the best practice I’ve advocated has been to visually distinguish primary and secondary actions so people have an clear path illuminating their primary goal: completing a form."    (Continued via LukeW)    [Usability Resources]

Secondary Actions - Usability, User Interface Design

Secondary Actions

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