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I develop a Firefox and Chrome extension, and I'm adding a button. It seems like a page action (button in the address bar) is the "correct" choice, as opposed to a browser action (button on the toolbar).

I don't have enough karma to post images, but you can see examples here.

However, I've done some (limited) informal user surveying, and it seems that literally nobody realizes that the page action icon is a button -- they think that it's just informational.

(This is exacerbated by the fact that a) the mouse doesn't change to clicky hand or the like on hover, and b) in Chrome there doesn't seem to be a way to change the icon on hover to indicate interact-ability. This is parenthetical because most users won't even know to try to hover.)

This is less a problem on Firefox because it's possible to put a button in both places. But in Chrome it's strictly either/or.

Are page actions obvious to the user that they are clickable? Does anyone have experience or know of user studies regarding them?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

This purely anecdotal, but I work in the web industry, and use chrome everyday, and didn't realise the page actions were clickable. I agree with you that they look more like signifiers than they do clickable buttons.

Most people are familiar with the 3 horizontal lines signifying a menu button (highlighted below), and as such, being part of the same visual grouping with the menu button makes it obvious that the icons next to it are also buttons.

enter image description here

I'm not sure what your extension does, but if it's possible to make the button a browser action I feel it will be more obvious to users that it is clickable.

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Page Actions aren't useless as they convey actions and status that relate to the current page. For example:

  • The Add-to-Bookmarks button is a Page Action to toggle the current page on your bookmarks list.
  • The FlashBlock extension uses a Page Action to show if the current page is globally blocked from showing Flash elements.
  • The extension Chrome Sniffer uses a Page Action to show what platforms and libraries the current page is using.

But I agree that they don't function well as buttons, perhaps this is by the design of the icon (not "raising" the element to give it depth).

FlashBlock and Add-to-Favorites Page Actions

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