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For buttons that initiate some content creation interaction, which label is better: "New X" or "Create X"? Are there specific uses that in which one is better than the other?

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It depends on the context. Are they creating something brand new, such as a new project, or are they creating something based off of another thing, such as Create Instance of "_____"? –  bzav May 20 at 13:01
    
@bzav I've intentionally generalized my question to make it interesting and useful for other users as well. –  Yosef Waysman May 20 at 13:09
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There aren't many general answers to general questions in UX. A key in UX is to find a solution to specific and unique problems. The right answers require knowledge of context and the users. If your users are accountants and you ask them and they vote 'new', new it is; if it's hairdressers who vote 'create', create it is. –  Izhaki May 20 at 13:12
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"Create New X". ;) –  EthanB May 20 at 21:46

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I would say that "New" is best in most situations, as it is short and distinct.

A good rule of thumb is to look at the other options you will have in your menu. You want to make scanning fast, so you want to make each option as distinct as possible. Here is a crude example of what I mean:

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

As you can see, in this instance "New" stands out more as it is the only option beginning with "N". "Create", "Close", and "Copy" get in each other's way, forcing the user to actually read the whole word.

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@virtualnobi Different languages will have different distributions of character frequency. (A fun way to look at it might be which starting letters have the best scrabble score?) –  Franchesca May 20 at 13:09
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@virtualnobi "New" tends to imply a "<Something>" after it, and in some case has it explicitly (e.g. "New Tab", "New Document", etc.); most languages should have a similar construct for that usage of New, and even if not there would be plenty of ways to localize (though that would end up with similar discussions as this one for such languages). –  JAB May 20 at 13:10
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Sure German has "Neu" as an adjective, as has English, also implying a <something> after it. But for some reason, one of which may be the fact that there are several inflected forms of "neu" (neues, neue, neuer, depending on grammatical gender of following noun), "Neu" definitely does not work for creating objects, in a German UI. –  virtualnobi May 20 at 13:19
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@AJMansfield What about "Collage" :P –  Franchesca May 21 at 7:33
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Another angle (which I haven't seen discussed here) is how the user perceives their work. As a particularly extreme example: A family record system I saw had a button for "Create Child". That made perfect sense to the software developers, but was a bit weird for someone who just wanted to record the details of the child that already existed. –  RJHunter May 23 at 15:26
up vote 45 down vote accepted

Ok I might be on to something:

  • "New" is good for buttons that take the user to a clean "canvas", where the user can add his content.
  • "Create" is good for buttons that "submit" the user's content or input (either into a database or to some public platform).

In other words, "New" doesn't suggest that you're actually creating anything. It just sets the stage for creation. "Create" suggests that you're done and ready to turn your temporary work into a permanent object.

So, if you want to create a new Word Document, "New file" or just "New" are good, because the action gives the user a clean canvas. If, however, you've just completed a registration form, "Create" works better, because it submits the user's input into the database and creates a new object.

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This was my first instinct as well. "Create" implies that something is actually going to exist after you click the button, e.g., based on some input you've already entered. For working with a database, it's perfectly reasonable to me to have "New" button that opens a blank form and then a "Create" button to save the content of that form. The "Create" button would then be replaced with "Update" (or something similar) when editing an existing entry. –  AmeliaBR May 22 at 2:46
    
@AmeliaBR: I would expect that `Create..." would open a modal dialog box which would be used to describe the new thing to be created; the object should not actually be created until the user has approved such action by 'OK'ing (rather than cancelling) the dialog. –  supercat May 24 at 21:06
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In English the action would be to "Create a new blank document". And "Add a record" to the record keeping system (database is now in the vernacular) or "Add a post" to a discussion. Potentially the distinction made in this answer may be system implementation leaking into the user domain. –  Jayfang May 24 at 21:51

Designers' over-sensitivity

It is easy for designers to overthink things (and equally under-think things). I highly recommend reading this research paper:

Petrie, H. & Power, C. (2012). What Do Users Really Care About? A Comparison of Usability Problems Found by Users and Experts on Highly Interactive Websites. Proceedings of Human Factors in Computing Systems pp.2107-2116

I suspect there may be no issue with either. Create is preferred for the reasons described below (being a verb), New is conventional. Doubt any user will straggle with either, and I would go as far as guessing that if you take this to users, they might be a bit baffled, showing no particular preference. But anyway...

Verbs are good

You "create a new document".

Create is a verb, new is an adjective.

Verbs are ideal for actionable controls, as they are in-tune with the user wish to do something, to act.

However, new is highly conventional. Even Apple use it, very oddly mixing adjectives with verbs in their menus (notice how new and Page Setup are the only non-verb options):

As others have stated, it depends on context.

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Verbs FTW! Like you said, the difference probably isn't significant enough to fret over as both words are used. It's not like you're deciding between "New" and "Actualize." –  Hynes May 20 at 13:26
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Just tried to close the menu in the image by clicking away from it. I need more coffee. –  Gusdor May 21 at 13:11

I associate new with the creation of a new instance of some existing object, such as, a new Word document. Create on the other hand strikes me as constructing something from scratch, which may or may not involve new instances of existing objects. So, I'll 'Create' a technical guide using a 'New' word document.

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Yeh, "New" makes me think I get a blank "thing", based on some sort of template. Creating a table in a DB I have to define some stuff (my own data template) before I can start writing data. –  Franchesca May 20 at 13:13

I associate "create" with a more technical context than "new". In SQL you have the "CREATE TABLE" statement, for example. In a more user-friendly graphical user interface I see more "new" being used. Even when it isn't "new" in GUIs I see just about anything besides "create", for instance in MS Word you "insert" a table or you "add" text.

"New" has the benefit that it avoids a verb, so a user who thinks expressively will associate that directly with the desired outcome. "Create" on the other hand refers to a process that goes on top of the desired outcome and makes the concept more abstract.

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To put it simply, this is how I, as a user, would prefer it:

  • New does not create anything permanent, yet. In text editor it gives a new unsaved text document, for instance. This always involves opening the new thing, because, well, if it's not open in the application and it's not saved either, it doesn't exist. In limited enough scope like a text editor, New as a word can be used alone reducing UI clutter.

  • Create on the other hand would create something immediately persistent, such as a project with many files, which are created on the disk. It usually but not always involves opening the created thing, or at least some part of it like one file of many. Create always needs a specifier telling what is going to be created, or a chooser UI, or something.

I don't much mind if New is used for what I describe as Create above, and it is indeed quite common, but the other way around generally confuses me.

Then there of course are related operations Insert, Add, Attach and so on, which could be in some contexts be used for either of above.

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I will decide depending on the UI element context.

For instance, if you are referring to a command that appears in a menu, I'd use the wording "new [something]". The file menu in most desktop applications uses the same convention, so most users will already be familiar with it and will sense what your command is doing. However, there are differences between the OS-es. For example, on Windows, the desktop/folder right-click context menu uses the "New X" approach for creating folders, shortcuts or text files. On Ubuntu Linux using Gnome (I am not familiar how is it in the other graphic environments for Linux), the convention adopted is "Create [X]". If you have right-click context menu items, it will be good to follow the established convention for the user's OS.

If you refer, however, to a command button in a form-like application, it would make sense to use "Create [X]". Usually, command buttons are expected to display a verb that best describes what the button does (with some rare exceptions seen in navigation buttons like "back" and "next" in a setup wizard).

In general, I think a good approach is one that:

  • Sticks to the established conventions for the user interface item based on the user's environment. Users, already familiar with similar interfaces from their daily use of the OS, or popular software, would intuitively adapt to your application.
  • Is natural for the interaction. For instance a command button being a verb would be natural as the user would "issue a command" to the application. A Create [X] button could be seen as the user saying to the app "Create one [X] for me", which would be closer to real-life communication.

If in doubt for a certain element, the decision then would be to what you need to emphasize on - the purpose of the item (hence make it familiar to the user sticking to the conventions he should already be accustomed to), or the natural fluency of the item in regard to the other user interactions.

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Create implies an object will exist once created, but new implies an object will exist after it's first save. The two have distinct differences in context.

Here are some examples;

  • A user can create a hard drive partition, but once created it can not be undo.
  • A user can start a new document, but if he doesn't save it then it will not be created.

The key difference between create and new is the existence of an object after the action. For a database, you would use the word "Create" if a new record is inserted before the user modifies a form with data. Or, you would use the word "New" if the data is created after submission.

There can be times when state management requires records to exist in order to verify rules are valid. In these cases the user is creating.

When you type in a status message in Facebook. You are entering a "new" status update, and it is "created" when it's submitted.

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I would suggest to include 'Add' as well in this discussion. We see all three at different places covering the same meaning, 'Create X, 'New X', 'Add X'.

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Came here to say exactly the same thing. –  Dirk v B May 26 at 6:16

"Create X" is the right label to initiate content creation.

Create X: A user may require to perform one or more steps to complete the "Create X" task, where as "New X" is a single click to open a page/workspace/file.

New X: "Open" is implied verb for opening a new file/page/workspace/file.

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