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User Interface Button Order

This article is still under development...

This is a study of the eight fundamental ways of how to arrange OK and Cancel in a dialog.


Assumptions:

  • We're in non-arabian countries, meaning people will read from left to right.
  • Buttons are more easy to locate if they are in a corner.
  • The OK button is used much more often than Cancel.
  • The user does not have any computer experience - thus previous habits or expectations are irrelevant.


1. Left aligned, left to right

Pros: Proper reading order (reading left to right will bring you to the OK button first, which is what you want in most cases). Most used button is at the corner of the dialog.
Cons:

dialog


2. Left aligned, right to left

Pros:
Cons: Unlogic reading order. Most used button is not in the corner.

dialog


3. Right aligned, left to right

Pros: Left to right reading order.
Cons: Most used button is not in the corner.

dialog


4. Right aligned, right to left

Pros: Most used button is in the corner.
Cons: Unlogic right to left reading order.

dialog


5. Centered, left to right

Pros: Left to right reading order.
Cons:

dialog


6. Centered, right to left

Pros:
Cons: Unlogic right to left reading order.

dialog


7. Stretched to fill, left to right

Pros: Left to right reading order.
Cons:

dialog


8. Stretched to fill, right to left

Pros:
Cons: Unlogic right to left reading order.

dialog


Conclusion:

If you right align the buttons inside the window, you're headed for trouble because you are suddenly forced to choose between two solutions that are both problematic. Thus i would recommend chosing 1, 5 or 7.

Currently the only desktop systems that use the Cancel-OK button ordering are Macintosh and Gnome/GTK. All other environments i've encountered (Microsoft Windows, KDE, Amiga, Atari and SGI Irix.) use the OK-Cancel order. So the suggested solution favors both logic and statistics.

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