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In the web application we're developing we have lists of items in which items can be clicked to access an item-details page. The list disappears, the browser navigates to a separate url that displays the item-details page.

My product manager thinks it's a good idea to have a [X] ("close") button in this item-details page, even if its main function is "go to previous page", which is a duplicate of the browser's "Back" button. His main argument is that dummy users won't know about the browser's "Back" button and will simply get stuck in the item-details page.

Another colleague states that, since users don't use the browser's "Back" button when using web applications (in opposition to "classic" websites, I guess) it's important to provide that functionality right into the page.

My opinion is that the button is useless and in the wrong context.

I think that close buttons apply to modals, dialogs and popups that actually need to be closed, but I'm not sure I'm right.

What is your opinion on this subject?

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Firstly, where did the manager get the assumption from that 'dummy users won't know about the browser's "Back" button and will simply get stuck in the item-details page'? And secondly; where did s/he get the assumption from that a Close button will remove this problem? That's two big assumptions, with the second being an assumption based on an assumption. That's too many assumptions deep. – JonW Apr 7 '14 at 10:50
up vote 3 down vote accepted

You shouldn't use a close button. It will confuse users that understand that it's not a popup window they are seeing. I suspect that some users will fear that it closes the entire browser (or the current tab) and won't click it.

Even if the user would like a way to get back to the previous page, it's better to use a dedicated back button on which a descriptive text can be added - "Go back to list" or similar. This button will probably be untouched by some users who'll use the browsers back button, but on the other hand - if designed correctly - it won't do any harm.

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