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After reading this question about Big Bad Red buttons, where it was generally agreed upon that red buttons draw the user to click, I was left thinking: then when are they good affordance and interaction design?

  • Red buttons usually mean something negative, so I suppose users will be expecting that of a red button.

  • Red buttons draw users to click instead of avert from it.

The two statements above seem to work against each other. So is the red color "out" for buttons? When is it a good idea to use it, if at all?

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I s'pose this is about Gmail's Compose button? –  Mehrdad Dec 29 '11 at 12:43
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4 Answers 4

up vote 30 down vote accepted

Red buttons are appropriate when a primary action is negative in nature.

That is, the user is very likely to want to hit the button anyways, and the action triggered is canceling, ending, deleting, or some other "negative" action. Here are a few examples from iOS:

enter image description here

Note that in the image on the right, the user has already indicated they would like to leave the current page, so they are likely to want to hit that "Delete Draft" button. If that action had been of secondary importance in this context, I would not go with red (and that location and size on the screen).

This pattern reinforces the nature of the action while also calling attention to the place you are likely to want to click/touch given the context.

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Oh I get it, and in the first example, supposing two iPhone users on a call with each other, SOMEONE will need to eventually press that "End" button, so it's pretty much the primary and most important action on the call screen. Thanks! –  Vic Goldfeld Nov 23 '11 at 16:38
    
This is not entirely true, red is danger only in some cultures, and even on ours it sometimes has other (not negative) uses. –  Naoise Golden Dec 29 '11 at 11:16
    
@NaoiseGolden An important point. This answer makes the assumptions that the user base is "Western" culturally (somewhat likely to perceive the negative red connotation), and that there is some sort of color system in use, where different colors (or grayscale vs. red in iOS's case) are employed to convey different meanings. As a generic highlight color, red is not out of bounds, and as you point out, draws the eye like no other color. –  peteorpeter Dec 29 '11 at 14:28
    
Indeed the Google redesign employs red heavily for emphasis, and though this has sparked some discussion, I don't think this is necessarily a problem because, at least in Gmail's case, the red button is the only one on the page - red isn't serving to distinguish this action from other similar ones. –  peteorpeter Dec 29 '11 at 14:33
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May not be relevant in the context above, but I vaguely remember that in your peripheral vision, the colour red is the most easily distinguished colour. This application is often used in real world UI's rather than on screens. I guess as screens are usually small enough in size that you do not require your peripheral vision.

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Of course, all of this "conventional wisdom" can now be appropriately questioned given that Google has now completely violated this "rule" on MOST of its web apps.

Here's a G+ conversation on the same thing: https://plus.google.com/113117251731252114390/posts/RNM3ki72Yby

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The colour red indicate in most cases a potential risk. But in addition to the colour of actions the sequence, the placement, the grouping (see screen 2) and the shape/size is important. I would use other colors for attention buttons.

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other colors? such as? –  Vic Goldfeld Nov 29 '11 at 8:33
    
You can use a typical corporate colour (e.g. blue) for positive action. But it depends on the corporate design and the platform (OS). So only destructive actions can be coloured in red. –  sysscore Nov 29 '11 at 11:50
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