link vs button

29 Nov 2007 - 7:24pm
4 years ago
7 replies
2345 reads
Billie Mandel
2005

Hey gang -

Back in the day when there was a clear(er) delineation between "software" and "the web," the way most of us designed was to use buttons for actual actions or operations, and hyperlinks for opening or filtering a web page.

It seems to me like this is changing in our wild mashed-up world of web app fabulousity - lots of folks are designing apps where a hyperlink invokes an action (edit, add, send message, etc).

What do you say - are said designers committing heresy, or are they trailblazers? Should we be enforcing this line, or letting it blur?

Cheers,
-Billie

*   *    *    *    *   *   * 
Billie Mandel | Manager, User Experience Design & Research | OPENWAVE | billie.mandel at openwave.com

Comments

29 Nov 2007 - 8:58pm
Bruce Esrig
2006

Hi Billie,

Assuming that both will be used, I think it's important to maintain a
learnable convention. I'm inclined in favor of the following distinction:
buttons for simple, finite actions versus links for actions that begin a
process or require further detail.

That's a bit ironic, since you'd think that buttons would be good for the
heavier task, but it seems that the convention of using buttons for simple
confirmation is really strong.

For simple actions in tables, links seem better. In a table, a button is
visually ambiguous: is it part of the row, or apart from the row? A link
fits into the row better.

Best wishes,

Bruce Esrig

At 08:24 PM 11/29/2007, Billie Mandel wrote:
>Hey gang -
>
>Back in the day when there was a clear(er) delineation between "software"
>and "the web," the way most of us designed was to use buttons for actual
>actions or operations, and hyperlinks for opening or filtering a web page.
>
>It seems to me like this is changing in our wild mashed-up world of web
>app fabulousity - lots of folks are designing apps where a hyperlink
>invokes an action (edit, add, send message, etc).
>
>What do you say - are said designers committing heresy, or are they
>trailblazers? Should we be enforcing this line, or letting it blur?
>
>Cheers,
>-Billie
>
>* * * * * * *
>Billie Mandel | Manager, User Experience Design & Research | OPENWAVE |
>billie.mandel at openwave.com
>
>________________________________________________________________
>*Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
>February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
>Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
>________________________________________________________________
>Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
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29 Nov 2007 - 9:24pm
.pauric
2006

I dont think that's ironic at all Bruce: "buttons for simple, finite
actions versus links for actions that begin a process or require
further detail."

I agree with your definition whole heartedly. It follows the
existing conventions. Links are the prepositions and buttons are the
full-stop of interaction sentences. Links enable flow, buttons
commit.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://gamma.ixda.org/discuss?post=23139

30 Nov 2007 - 9:19am
White, Jeff
2007

I'm really not sure where I stand on this one. But some food for
thought: why back ourselves into a corner with conventions? Why not
let context determine which approach to use?

Jeff

On Thu, 29 Nov 2007 19:24:50, pauric <radiorental at gmail.com> wrote:
> I dont think that's ironic at all Bruce: "buttons for simple, finite
> actions versus links for actions that begin a process or require
> further detail."
>
> I agree with your definition whole heartedly. It follows the
> existing conventions. Links are the prepositions and buttons are the
> full-stop of interaction sentences. Links enable flow, buttons
> commit.
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://gamma.ixda.org/discuss?post=23139
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

30 Nov 2007 - 11:12am
Barbara Ballard
2005

On Nov 29, 2007 7:24 PM, Billie Mandel <Billie.Mandel at openwave.com> wrote:
> It seems to me like this is changing in our wild mashed-up world of web app fabulousity - lots of folks are designing apps where a hyperlink invokes an action (edit, add, send message, etc).
>
> What do you say - are said designers committing heresy, or are they trailblazers? Should we be enforcing this line, or letting it blur?
>

I find myself using links in local applications sparingly ... for
things that are going to launch the web browser. When designing web
sites, I try to use best (or at least standard) practices for buttons
& links.

--
Barbara Ballard
barbara at littlespringsdesign.com 1-785-838-3003

30 Nov 2007 - 4:18pm
Dave Cortright
2005

FWIW, here's what the Microsoft Vista UX guidelines have to say:

With a *link*, users can navigate to another page, window, or Help topic;
display a definition; initiate a command; or choose an option. A link is
text or a graphic that indicates that it can be clicked, typically by being
displayed using the visited or unvisited link system colors. Traditionally,
links are underlined as well, but that approach is often unnecessary and
falling out of favor to reduce visual clutter.

http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa511483.aspx

When I design client apps, I only use links when they actually open a page
in a browser. On the web, I've been using links and buttons nearly
interchangeably, basing the decision on context (as seen in LukeW's article
on action buttons <http://www.lukew.com/resources/articles/PSactions.asp>.)

30 Nov 2007 - 4:48pm
shoobe01
2007

> and falling out of favor to reduce visual clutter.
Bah! That's a huge mistake in my opinion. Anyway:

I had opportunity to work [on a team that worked] out a set of guidelines for this exactly at Sprint a few years ago. We had a web standards team, so we had to actually codify this stuff so many others could read and apply it to many, many sites of many sorts.

Links - Hyperlinks of any sort. Even if its important, its fundamentally a link, of words and an underline.
Buttons - Anything where the user submits data, or makes a systematic change: signup, search, save entered data, make the change, etc.

Superlinks - We made this up. It was a straight-up html link with an iconic shape pointing at it. To give something to the marketing types who wanted bigger links or buttons for important stuff on the home page, etc.

These distinctions have (when applied correctly) seemed to work just fine in practice (yes, we tested).

9 Aug 2010 - 9:13pm
uxmovement
2010

I think we all understand what a link and button is.  So, the question really is when to use the button over the link.  Links are more frequently used than buttons and there is a reason for this.  I believe buttons should be used sparingly.

I wrote a short article that explains when you should use buttons and how you should use them.

The Link vs. Button Debate

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