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I've seen the arguments about where things SHOULD be.

But my mind tells me that OK and Cancel have "switched places" on either one or both of:

  1. popular browsers
  2. Microsoft Windows

My mind tells me that OK "used to be on the right" in either Windows or the browsers.

Can anybody provide me documentary evidence either of WHEN they changed, THAT they used to be different (e.g. a Windows 3.1 style guide or similar), or that OK has always been on the left on both Windows and popular browsers?

Maybe Android's "OK on the right" (which I personally prefer) is confusing me.

But my question is still ONLY about "did browsers or Windows flip-flop OK and Cancel?"

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The OK button has been on the left or on the top as far back as Windows 2.0. –  user1757436 Nov 26 '13 at 17:21

3 Answers 3

As mentioned in this answer, it is the platform guidelines that are different (I know not of interface guidelines that are browser based).

Microsoft's guidelines are that the primary action is left-aligned.

Whereas Apple's guidelines are that the primary action should be right-aligned.

You may wish to read this experiment regarding the most effective button position, although platform guidelines will take precedence over this.

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The quick answer is that "Ok" and "Cancel" were never on the right or left. While guidelines suggest placement, it is the privy of the application developers to place them where the land.

For example, here is a Windows 95 dialog with a left/right layout:

enter image description here

and one with a top/bottom layout:

enter image description here

In Windows 7, the general placement has not change:

enter image description here

But there is nothing stopping an application developer from switching the order.

The guidelines for the different platforms are different:

Windows: Confirm on left, cancel on right

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/aa511268.aspx

Mac: Confirm on right, cancel on left

https://developer.apple.com/library/mac/documentation/userexperience/conceptual/applehiguidelines/Windows/Windows.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/20000961-BABCAJID

Android: Confirm on right, cancel on left

http://developer.android.com/guide/topics/ui/dialogs.html

iOS: ... I didn't locate the exact wording, but here is the style guide

https://developer.apple.com/library/ios/documentation/userexperience/conceptual/mobilehig/

Web: There are obviously no official style guides for the web, but there are plenty of studies. I've noticed that others have replied to this question while I've been typing -- I'll point back to their very good links.

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Great answer. If I'm right, the windows and osx guidelines haven't changed for ages in this regard, and have always disagreed. Perhaps lots of designers preferring macs have made the osx way prevail on the web? –  Koen Lageveen Jun 7 at 9:40

On the web, it's usually more acceptable to put OK on the right. Since you are reading from left to right, you get to see all the available options before you get to the option you want.

On Windows it's the other way around. I think the philosophy comes from that you want to cancel your action only if you made a mistake after activating an action. But activating the action is 99% of the intended.....action. So OK should the first button.

Mac is the other way around.

See Nielsen Norman Group

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