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Is there any situation in which either Next vs. Continue would be more appropriate to use?

I'm working on an application that has many, many different forms (data entry), and have been using the word "Next" to move the next section of the wizard, however, I've caught myself also being inconstant and using continue, now I'm wondering if one is preferred over the other?

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11  
Consistency is more important than anything in this situation. –  DA01 Mar 13 at 16:04
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I would say next where there's a predefined number of steps that the user is aware of, and continue where there isn't. Just a preference though. –  Nathan MacInnes Mar 13 at 19:08
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If you are paging through views of something (like a print preview), but needed to ask the user some additional things before 'print', I would definately use 'continue' over 'next', which might get confused with the paging control. –  AJMansfield Mar 13 at 19:21
    
In programming terms, "Next" is functional ("return the next section"), while "Continue" is procedural ("advance your state, display the results"). –  Superbest Mar 14 at 22:01
    
"Next" is informative, while "Continue" is imperative. I try not to tell the users what to do so I'd use "Next". –  Juan Lanus Mar 18 at 22:28

6 Answers 6

up vote 29 down vote accepted

In the team I am on, our idea on the matter is as follows:

Continue is used when you're talking about a directed flow forward only. Continue implies that anything you've done hitherto will be saved, so that you can move forward in the workflow. Ideally in a Continue-based setup, there will be alternate ways to return to previous app states, if your design supports doing that.

Next is is also used in a directional-flow situation, and also implies saving progress, but is usually paired with a Back command of some kind that does the same thing, but in the opposite direction.

There is nothing offensive about using Next in place of Continue without a Back button. It's perfectly permissible, in fact, in most cases. However, Continue does a very very slightly better job of driving home that the user needs to progress in the workflow we are requiring of them.

Another factor, is in the absence of a Back button, Continue is preferable actually because of its size; it's easier to see because it's larger. Next is only half as long, character-wise and that's not even counting if the font is monospaced or not (pro-tip: it's usually not.) Users can, and will, get stuck, or worse, frustrated, merely because they can't see a control they need easily enough. Of course, this can be mitigated by good styling, ensuring that the button is large enough, and is a 'constructive' color like green, which indicates that information will be saved/preserved, and is a primary action (one of the few buttons on the page).

The copy mostly comes down to preference in this case.

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From what I understand:

Next would be used in a step process. Say you have a 4 step process. You would press next when you're going from step 1 to step 2, and so forth. Next implies that you are going forward to next step, something different.

Continue would be used when the context is the same, and you are taking the user from segment to segment in the same context. Continue implies that you are within the same context and just going on about it.

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First of all you should explain to the user the depth of the wizard, declaring how many steps the user should complete in order to finish the task.

Then for each step you can use "continue" as call to action for the next step.

At the bottom of the form you could add a label for the next step and beside a continue button. In this way the user knows exactly where he is and how many steps remains to finish the task.

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I would like to recommend you that, in your scenario "Continue" would be more preferred.

The reason is simple - if you are collecting the data from user and that too in wizard section , then Continue word would be more suitable. If you are displaying the set of records and using pagination then Next would be the correct word to use.

I was too in the same scenario like you, after a long brainstorm session with BA/IA we concluded with above solution.

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Between Next and Continue, I would use Next if I need to use Prev. With Continue I would need to use Back. Which can be confusing sometimes. Continue/Back on a Android phone can be confusing since the need of behavior of both may be different.

Also Next Prev take the same amount of space font size wise. And easier to get both to look similar.

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I would add that if you have a Next/Continue and no Previous/Back (i.e. no way to go back), you should attend to that first. Forms that only allow forward motion are like pages covered in glue, you're scared to let go in case you realise you want to change something. –  Phil H Mar 13 at 17:12

I don't know that one is more preferred over the other more than just picking one and sticking with it, as @DA01 was suggesting in the comments.

I would add that what would matter is how you group the forward and backward actions. Meaning, Previous and Next should be grouped together and Back and Continue should be grouped together.

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