Why We Should Lose The Back Button?

from the not-this-again dept

While, in general, I think people who focus on user interface design issues are very important, I’m beginning to get tired of the really outspoken ones who insist on somewhat outlandish ideas for their own personal satisfaction. The latest is this obsession with getting rid of the back button in the browser, championed by Richard Mander. His argument makes sense at first. The back button is poorly designed and doesn’t really tell you where you’re going properly. However, at this point, most people know where it is and what it does. Changing a basic navigational item once people understand it and are used to it doesn’t make much sense and tends to cause a lot more confusion in the long run. In the article, he also complains about a number of other user interface design standards. You begin to realize that what he really wants is for everything to be completely dumbed down. One of the nice things about the web is that once you figure it out, it all makes sense. Sure, there’s a bit of a learning curve, but how many people do you know have decided they can’t figure it out? It only takes a very quick experimentation to understand how it works, and then it works great. Mander assumes that no one can use the web, and it needs to be dumbed down even more. It’s no wonder he was a fan of the annoying paper clip from Microsoft Office. I’m mildly suprised that this is the first mainstream tech news article I’ve seen in ages about user interface design that doesn’t mention Jakob Nielsen.

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Comments on “Why We Should Lose The Back Button?”

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Ed says:

Dumbest thing I've ever heard

The back button is basically an undo, and to argue for removal of an undo is absurd. I don’t trust back links embedded into pages. Sometimes they are implemented stupidly as a link to the previous page, which is slower and messes up your history. And with popup ads filled with fake close buttons, my first instinct is always to prefer a stock browser button over something embedded in a page.

Perhaps the real problem here is that a web browser must fill conflicting needs. If a web browser were always just a window for displaying trusted, properly designed content, then it wouldn’t need any buttons at all outside the viewing area. But because it can be used to view untrusted and/or poorly designed (or even maliciously designed) pages, it needs to have certain navigation buttons available that don’t depend on content.

Prask says:

Re: Dumbest thing I've ever heard

Mander apparently does not understand the nature of the web. Web browsing by its nature is stateless. Any coherent navigation within pages has had to be contrived by the author. Navigation between sites is even more “stateless” than between pages of the same site.

Much of internet navigation is from searth pages. It seems that he is argueing for consistant navigation from a master page. Never mind that I do not want a master navigation page wrapper a la hotmail. I already have one: the browser interface and its back button.

The most functional new device I have bought in the last two years is a logitec mouse with a back button under the thumb.

Jason Cook (user link) says:

Easy to ?

This goes back to a basic confusion in UI design. There is a large difference between easy to learn and easy to use. Software like AutoCAD and The Gimp are not easy to learn apps, but once you understand the workflow they become very efficient and easy to use.

I don’t mind having to learn something new as long as the UI is designed to make getting things done with the software efficient.


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