New Poll: Action Verb Clarity

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Chris Coyier on (Updated on )

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Let’s say you were writing some text-only documentation describing how to do something on a website. The idea was that you came to a point where someone was presented with a list of users and their job was to select one, then there was a button below that they needed to interact with in order to get the job done. You decided “Select a user” was clear enough because of good user interface. But what is the best way to word [clicking] that button. Here are some options:

  • Select a user and then click the Update button.
  • Select a user and then press the Update button.
  • Select a user and then choose the Update button
  • Select a user and then click Update.
  • Select a user and then press Update.
  • Select a user and then choose Update.
  • Select a user and Update.

In my opinion, “click” is a ubiquitous enough term that most people would understand, but technically, keyboard navigation also works fine and doesn’t use “clicking.” The word “press” or “choose” might solve that, but also feel slightly strange to me.

The design is also an important consideration. We’ve already said this is a “button”. People know what buttons look like, so does it help to indicate that with text, or is simply the text inside the button good enough? Since our text is “Update”, which is an action verb already, do we even need to use click/press/choose? Perhaps just “Update” is good enough…which is also the shortest option.

The poll doesn’t include this, but it is a worthy talking point, what about emphasis (e.g. bold/italic)? If you were going to emphasize a word (or words) in the choice that you pick, which would they be?

Thanks to Brent Traut for the idea.