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I have a form, which is on a page of its own - it's a huge one, and one of the internal reviewers recommended to add a cancel button to it. I am just trying to figure out if a cancel button is applicable in a full-page form.

I can't figure out what should be the behavior of the form when the cancel button is clicked. The recommendation given was that clicking the cancel button should take them to the main home page but that just seems odd since there is no guarantee that the person would have landed on the form page from the main page (or from any page) and I don't want users thinking "Wait, how did I just get to this page?"

So do you think I should push back and say a cancel button is not needed or do you see any specific value add to it?

Note: Please note I did look at the older questions

Is a cancel button necessary in a windows form? - This deals with modal dialogues so it's not applicable to my case

Is a cancel button necessary in a web form? - The question is generic and the responses don't really address my question.

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What's the workflow? What's the purpose of the form? From how many pages can a user land on it? –  dnbrv Mar 16 '12 at 0:04
    
There is just one page but then this form would be used quite frequently and most people using the form would just bookmark. With regards to the workflow, it would initiate an email containing form details to specific people –  Mervin Johnsingh Mar 16 '12 at 0:11
    
Does this form page a navigation and breadcrumb that would give user an idea of where they are in relation to the site? –  Jung Lee Mar 16 '12 at 0:21
    
+1 for checking and likning previous questions. Related links is good usability. –  Benny Skogberg Mar 16 '12 at 4:40
    
@JungLee, Yes we do have a breadcrumb in each page of the site including this form page –  Mervin Johnsingh Mar 16 '12 at 7:37

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I would push back on the recommendation in this case unless the person can give you a business case or user story that specifically requires a cancel button.

If the primary method of navigation to this form is via bookmark or in a list of internal tools/links that people bookmark, and the form is not clearly part of a hierarchy or other discernible navigation path, you're right that in this case there is no good answer to "well, where do I take the user when they cancel?"

While the Alertbox for Cancel and Reset buttons is 12 years old, I think that in your specific situation the guidance not to use cancel is appropriate. To wit, this is not a multi-step form, and since it no action is happening at all until the user submits the form (I am assuming), the need to have a cancel button for "an extra feeling of safety" doesn't seem to apply. In other words, if the user can safely abandon this form then I think Cancel is unnecessary.

Note that if there is any Ajax-ified auto-saving or other behavior happening in this form, I probably would have a cancel button, which would lead to some sort of informative landing page that said something to the effect of "It's cool, nothing happened with your data, carry on with your work" (ok, maybe not those words...), since you'd still have the problem of not knowing where to send a user back to, should they cancel.

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Cancel buttons can be extremely useful. For example, in the screenshot below it gives me peace of mind in knowing I can successfully exit the process at any time.

Especially useful with forms requiring multiple steps. Closing the window on a page/step 2 can cause confusion as to what will happen with the data you have already supplied. This is where I would most recommend a cancel button.

bank account

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This is a single step form,one submission and then user is done with the form,though I agree with your solution in case of a form based application like a checkout,I am not sure how it applies here –  Mervin Johnsingh Mar 16 '12 at 7:39

Lots of users like a way out of any situation. If you are okay with this way out being your users closing the form and there are no technical implications with the user aborting the process in the middle, then I say you don't need one.

Having a cancel button can make things comfortable for a lot of users, so it might be a good idea to have one, but it certainly isn't necessary. This is especially true for single page forms.

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Depends on how they can "close" the form. If closing can only achieved by clicking the small [X] (not many users are aware of [Esc] closing a dialog), then a cancel button can still be useful because it simply is a bigger target to hit. But perhaps this is what you meant by "comfortable" (ie not comfortable in the sense of peace of mind)? –  Marjan Venema Mar 16 '12 at 8:38

What you really should consider when using Cancel buttons is if it counters logic. If a user fills out a form that is long enough, there is no need for a Cancel button; they've already committed to filling it out. In fact, what if they fill out this rather-lengthy form, only to accidentally hit said-Cancel button? Will the user be happy or annoyed? Will he start over or be discouraged? Sometimes, you can only fire that arrow once when you try to win over potential users. Personally, I would never include a Cancel button on any form that is served to create an instance of something-commital; whether it be registration, profile setup, tax forms, etc.

On the other hand, using forms as an alternative to changing personal preferences quickly (whether permanently or temporarily) makes for a much better candidate for the Cancel button. Consider a form that has one field, a Change Location form for instance. Perhaps the user doesn't want to change their location just yet, perhaps he clicked it by accident, perhaps he was only exploring, etc. These forms tend to be much less committal, and the user should feel like it's something that won't change their overall experience too much. Personally, I would include a Cancel button on forms that aren't commital; forms that change the behavior of the site.

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