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I've had a little discussion with one of my co-workers regarding how to handle the Clear all -button in a mandatory input-field on the iPhone. The field holds the account email address and is present in the Account information view in our app. Changes in the view can not be saved if the user hasn't provided a valid email address.

Here it is depicted if you don't follow which button I mean:

enter image description here

Here is how the two opinions has been reasoned:

One side argues that the button should be removed because the field is required, and providing a Clear All -action could cue to a user that the field could be left empty, "why else would we provide such an action"? Only power users will note that it's gone and they will then without thinking select the entire text with double tap for instant erase.

One side argues that the button should be kept. This is what the user expects and by that consistency is withheld. Removing it would hinder a users sense of control and compromise interactive capabilities. The user could still with the Clear button removed, backspace all text and then be annoyed that they can't save their changes, removing the Clear all button will not work around that.

Do any of you have any good input on either of the opinions mentioned? Personal preference should be kept to a minimum, unless it can be reasoned in a way that totally differs from how it's reasoned in the points above. If you can provide any unique hard evidence for either of the points then you get a star! (well, not really, but most probably an instant upvote!)

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Strikes me that the intent of the cross button would be better served by something meaning 'replace' or 'change this' rather than remove. –  Roger Attrill Nov 5 '12 at 13:59

3 Answers 3

I don't see how it could be read as a cue that it could/should be left empty, and your validation should explain otherwise anyway. I don't think this control would generally be seen as a "cue" either way.

It's a common pattern for this to be on inputs on iOS, there's a "clear" button on the Search box in the App Store even though you can't search with it empty. The control isn't only useful when the field needs to be removed but also useful when the field needs to be entirely replaced, as this saves you some use of the touch keyboard.

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Yes, I agree with what you say, for some reason my PO thinks differently.. –  AndroidHustle Nov 5 '12 at 13:27
    
The argument of user expectation may work for search boxes where the content is frequently replaced, but is it as valid when the content is rarely changed - such as profile/account email address? –  Roger Attrill Nov 5 '12 at 14:00

This Cancel button may be kept. Although, I don't see any reason for that:

  1. Cancel button is used for clearing fields which are changed often (like search bars) or it's likely that will be changed completely (inputs for text translation, or phone numbers).
  2. It takes space, and even iOS has problems with horizontal scrolling inside text fields, so it's always better to have more space for input (and have an ability to easily change a char at the start of the field, for example).
  3. And, maybe not a big deal, but: it adds an unnecessary visual and functional complexity to the field (and it's always good to keep things as simple as possible).
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I'll start with the bottom line: It doesn't matter too much.

Please let me explain my assertion:

If you keep the Clear button, people would assume that it just clears the text field, because that's the behavior they have come to be used to (mainly from the search box). Why would it suggest that the field is optional? I don't see the logical connection between clearing a field and having it mandatory. The first relates to the editing phase, and the latter to the submitting phase.

If, on the other hand, you don't show the Clear button, people would have to annoyingly backspace the field's content when they want to totally replace it. But how often would that happen? If you expect that to happen a lot, like in the search situation, than seriously consider adding it, but otherwise it won't contribute too much (as stated by others, would just take up space unnecessarily).

I don't know your app, but changing the e-mail address altogether sounds like a reasonable case. Added to the fact that e-mail addresses tend to be quite long strings (in mobile terms), this Clear button sounds like a good idea. If you decide to add it, but found out it isn't used for some reason, I don't think it would cause any detectable damage. This is why it doesn't matter too much, but guessing by your description, it would be better to add it.

Finally, you also asked for "hard evidence", but all I can help with is Apple's guidelines, which ambiguously say:

Display the Clear button in the right end of a text field when appropriate. When this element is present, tapping it clears the contents of the text field, regardless of any other image you might display over it.

Good luck!

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