I have a form for customers to place orders through a form (An Ecommerce solution is coming, but in the meantime we are using this). There is one <select> drop down that was giving us issues. Reorder is for referencing an old order, and just changing the customized text on the product (such as names on a nametag). New Order means they specify every option (size, magnet backing, font, so on). Because of technical reasons, I am unable to populate the form with the data of previous orders.

New Order or Reorder?
    New Order

We find by looking at the forms we receive and the feedback we get from customers, that a lot of customers are using the New Order option when they should use Reorder. Customers doing the opposite (using Reorder when they should use New Order) has not been an issue.

After seeing this, I made the following changes. I placed Reorder first (since most orders are reorder) and added some descriptive text.

Reorder or New Order?
    Reorder (You can make changes from a previous order)
    New Order (This is an entirely new order)

Looks like this now

Select Dropdown

The issue is still happening however. When a customer complains that the form is too long, we contact them, explain they should be using Reorder, which they say makes sense, then they start using it correctly. There must be a UI/UX tweak to prevent the issue in the first place. I've asked what language they would use, but the responses have been all over the place with no common theme.

The user demographics are usually older, not tech savvy, and business oriented.

How can I prevent customers from using New Order when they really want to use Reorder?

  • 9
    To me, "make changes" would mean modifying an order that has been placed but not received yet. They would be Re-ordering the order, changing it, not Again Ordering the same thing only different. It is hard to say "do what you did before, almost but with the changes that you want for this time." It just isn't a word in our language. Ask them what they would call it. Probably they have no idea. Then you throw out your plan and come up with something... "Completely Different"
    – user67695
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 19:12
  • 2
    "New Order" and "Re-order" are bad choice of words. "Re-order" means "make an order that I already made, again". There is no implied connotation of "but make just a few adjustments", as you seem to want. If I am a customer and I want to make a similar but slightly different order, of course I want a new order.
    – Pedro A
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 13:54
  • 1
    @Hamsteriffic I'm well aware. The difficult part is finding a better choice of words.
    – Goose
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 14:11
  • 2
    It's entirely plausible that browser auto-complete is a faster re-order than your re-order pathway.
    – Joshua
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 15:44
  • 4
    If I wanted to make a new order with a few small changes and I was presented with a free text field to describe the changes in prose, I would grumpily go fill out the "New Order" form because I'd be terrified someone would screw up my prose description. As made apparent by everyone's answers and comments, it's also definitely not the kind of behavior we expect from your description; your users are probably startled by it. I think the "Reorder" form is itself more of a problem than the interface you're asking about. Do you have any data on whether try it and then abandon it?
    – jpmc26
    Commented Jun 1, 2017 at 0:47

8 Answers 8


Speak like your customers

It's helpful to be more conversational — especially with older customers who tend to miss implied meaning in an interface. They aren't typically put off by a little extra text for the sake of clarity. This does not always hold true with younger markets.

Get into your customer's state of mind ...

"Reorder" means "place the same order again".
But I want to make changes from last time.
I know what reorder means.
"New Order" it is ✔️

Obviously, I'm not your customer. I'm guessing here, but you get the idea.

What if you framed the decision differently? What if you were more conversational?


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

In response to @PeterL's excellent point …

Some other, possibly clearer, button language for "re-order":

Customize a previous order
Copy and revise previous order
Copy and revise from order history

And some "new order" language options to go along with those:

Start a blank order
Order new items
Order something new

  • 1
    @jitendragarg I mised your answer (left the mock window up for a while I was doing other things). Looks like we came to the same basic conclusion 😊 Commented May 30, 2017 at 16:11
  • 1
    @jitendragarg and plainclothes, Both answers hit some of the same points, but the suggestion in this answer to take a conversation tone to reframe the question makes sense and is very actionable. I'll implement this approach today, thank you both!
    – Goose
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 16:18
  • 3
    I'd still suggest not using "re-order" on the button itself. Maybe "customize previous order" or something. This goes to your point of speaking like your customers, and I think you want to do it on the button itself since that's what they're most likely to read.
    – PeterL
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 23:14
  • 2
    @plain you're absolutely right. There is a website with the same "problem" OP mention and I think I never clicked "re-order" because I have no idea what it will do (and I do not want to waste my valuable time exploring this feature) Commented May 31, 2017 at 9:46
  • 1
    An alternative "re-order" text could be something like "Create/Start a new order based on a previous order" - to me, it's a little simpler to interpret than the "Copy and revise [...]" variants.
    – Serlite
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 19:53

Why this is happening

In a word (because, well, there is a word that's causing it—or rather three together): jargon.

It may not seem like it… both words involved are common language words. But that is actually exacerbating the issue, not helping it.

You are using the word "re-order" to mean something that is a common way to use it on the supply side of your industry. However, clearly the people using the service do not understand it to mean the same thing you do.

Now, you don't perceive it as jargon, but that's because you are familiar with your own terminology within this context. The issue, however, is not what you think "re-order" means, but rather what your customers do, and particularly what they think it means in contextual relation to "new order."

"New order" in this context is equally problematic, because it stands as a binary, blocking/exclusive choice when its own wording seems to be obviously something the customer is engaging in. They are making a new order, from their perspective, even if it is one that shares similarities/common basis to an older order. The presence of this wording likely means it will always have a higher selection rate than whatever it is being placed in opposition to, even when the other option does match the customer's underlying intent as understood in your perspective.

How to fix it

Stop trying to explain the words. Stop referring to things based on your perspective or the supply/service side context. Stop trying to mold the customer into your perspective.

Instead, change your own language entirely. You need to shift your perspective from how the ordering fulfillment process looks to you, to that of someone placing an order. How do they describe their intent for different "types" of orders? To them, are they even different "types" the way you see/categorize them? How can you, in turn, capture and address that?

While you can "train" repeat users at least (to varying extents), people tend to skip explanations. The longer the explanation, the more likely it is to be skipped. Particularly, people take shortcuts. That is to say, if you give them a word that they believe they know the meaning of, they are far less likely to read any text that seems to be explaining it.

If naming the option "re-order" is causing problems, stop calling it that entirely. You may also need to stop putting "new order" as a binary option in this context, because, from the customer perspective, of course it's a "new order." Don't expect to be able to explain around this. Re-ordering the explanation to be in front of the option may help, but ultimately it's masking the underlying issue and will likely have a lower success rate than addressing it more directly.

It's sometimes hard to remember from the context of designing a service that something which is every day and central to you or the operators of the service is often merely a minute or two out of a month for the person using it. In other words, it's given no weight as something needing to be remembered/integrated into that person's schema: trying to effectively train (because that's what this becomes) someone who is not actively using your service continually is an exercise in futility for everyone involved and merely serves to create friction between you and the people using the service.

You're going to need to both ask questions and test

I can't give you a specific answer on what is going to be best suited to the people using your service, just ideas on how to go about finding some. I carried forward a print ordering service with minimal form changes (as a requirement) and most of the people using it have no issue with the wording you are using. But they are also mostly heavy repeat users of the service, who probably spend at least an hour a month if not an hour a week, in some cases, placing orders. The few who are not heavy users are often only placing new orders (usually one offs), so it works well.

Talk to your customers. How would they refer to the process of placing an order based on an old order?

Change the flow!

One way I would approach this, personally, would be to try out something where you always are placing "a new order" and instead at the start of the ordering process you have the option to (with no directly opposing options):

  • "import from a previous order" (I consider the wording here to be important in distinguishing what is happening)
  • "Use order templating for faster orders!" (sometimes, using unfamiliar phrasing that seems to clearly connotate a contextually specific meaning and makes someone new ask "what's that?" is actually helpful, because it changes their context from one where they presume an understanding of what you are saying to one where they are open to your explanation… but remember, gaining an understanding of this is of far less significance to them than you, and they may still instead just skip it)
  • "Reload with changes" (However they conceive of what they are doing when going through this process, that is what you need to match)

Examples would be a page in the order flow that offers the central screen choice to:

  • "Yes! Import from an older order so I can quickly modify a new copy of it"

With a "normal flow" continuation option (e.g. bottom right hand corner)

  • "No, this order isn't like any of my previous ones"

Not as directly opposed binary elements in a drop down or radial options, but rather as effectively forking flow buttons, with the only exclusion aspect being a natural one following flow choices rather than more direct diametric opposition of an exclusive control (separating them in terms of space will help here, as will having one be an action item in the main selection area and the other being in the normal flow continuation area, due to how it changes their related contexts to each other).

Or alternatively, as an "add-on" to the current order, early in the order process, a checkbox/similar control not placed in opposition to any other options. Or a button that takes you to the selection view for the previous order to select for "importing"/"re-ordering." (you'll presumably need a new view for this, so that there is enough information to help someone select: personally I have no idea what I ordered on a given date/order number from a given company, I need to see the order details at least to some quick summary extent).

Given that you will need to somehow display an order selection from previous orders, I'm personally in favor of an action button of some kind, as it's a strong cue for the flow response or spawning a related modal (however you approach this).

Part of the problem with your current flow is that it creates an element of confusion by how it places an exclusionary binary choice between something that they obviously want to do (place a new order, in their understanding thereof) and something that they also want to do but don't necessarily realize (re-use an older order, with modifications… while placing a new order). Even changing the language won't entirely fix this problem: you need to remove the binary exclusion aspect of this in terms of it being opposed to starting a "new order." Make your "re-ordering" something that instead can be layered on top of a current "new order."

Even if the difference is essentially non-existent from a software logic side, it's crucial in how it guides an understanding and matches the flow to the intent and perspective of the customer based on their context.


Can you programmatically spot when an order looks a lot like a previous order? Even if it's "too late" by the time you can spot this to make the current order faster, that doesn't mean you can't still offer input the next time they're ordering that highlights the "import/re-order/whatever" option. Or sends them an email about a "new feature to streamline your orders!" (which they're likely to miss, ignore, have end up in spam, or ultimately forget by the time they order again, but you can certainly try—I recommend focusing on things you can do within the service's flow, though)

Note that it doesn't matter if the feature isn't "new" in an absolute sense or from your context. The point is that it is new to them. Context and perspective.


See if you can recruit a group of your customers for targeted testing and related feedback, if you can set up a separate instance or otherwise create an A/B style setup with your service by giving your test group a specific, different link to use. Do not discuss what you are changing before hand. Once they have placed some orders with the new format, you should be able to see if it made a difference.

Ideally, if you can shadow some of these customers while they place an order, it would be even more beneficial to getting an actual idea of their process and related thinking.

You'll never get everyone. People are different, they approach processes differently, and trying to design for everyone often creates more problems than it solves. Don't worry about edge cases, in terms of this design aspect. Capture them through support or direct outreach, instead. But you should be able to make a better experience for most of the people using your service, so long as you can approach it from their perspective instead of yours, and then design something that intuitively works with how they are approaching the task they are trying to complete via your service.

  • 1
    I appreciate the very long answer. I think you spent far more time reiterating the problem than you needed too. You gave far too broad an answer. Also, the other answers covered most of your points much more concisely and with more narrow actionable advice. I'll update my question to explain that I am unable to populate the form, as I explained to maxathousand.
    – Goose
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 18:52
  • 4
    Honestly the issue you discussed with maxathousand could easily be another reason people aren't using the option. What kind of tracking/analytics do you have embedded? Can you tell when people pick one option and then back up the process and use the other? I would consider at least exporting and then generating some kind of previous order summary into a table with dates and PO numbers (and tied per user), if you can do a CSV/etc export from the old system. Or do your customers usually have their own order logs on hand?
    – taswyn
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 22:08
  • 1
    Assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, this answer is quite nice, and "If naming the option ... is causing problems, stop calling it that entirely" is going in a frame on my office wall. Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 0:54

The label text is not your problem. Users are telling you how they expect to interact with your site.

Perhaps this behavior indicates that you're asking the user if they would like to reorder a previous item too early in their process. It might be that the user is thinking "Okay, I need more of these, so I'll log on and make a new order for them," then proceeding to do just that--begin a new order.

Instead, maybe provide them one option: "New Order", then provide them the option to "Pre-populate from Previous Order". This way, it allows the user to continue doing what they've been doing, as well as provide them with the ability to copy from a previous order.

  • That's a great answer, However I am not able to populate previous data. I don't have order data from previous submitted forms stored in a relational database. It has no memory so to speak. I could work on building it, but it would delay the eCommerce solution. I'm looking for a solution that doesn't require significant back end changes.
    – Goose
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 15:38
  • 7
    So where does the "Reorder (You can make changes from a previous order)" option get its values from? What does that do? Commented May 30, 2017 at 15:41
  • It asks for a previous po number, order id, or ticket number. Then it provides a text box to specify what changes they want. The order information exists in a legacy and proprietary system that makes it infeasible to programmatically connect the information to the form.
    – Goose
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 15:44
  • 1
    You could provide that same behavior still, but just have that one step later in the process. I'll update my answer with a mockup. Commented May 30, 2017 at 15:45
  • @Goose Actually, I don't have time right now, but I was going to suggest that once they move to a new order form, near the top, show a button for "Populate form with previous order" or something similar. Clicking that would open a modal that would provide the lookup options that you mention. If the order is found, the modal closes and the form gets populated. Commented May 30, 2017 at 15:51

I think your current system might cause some confusion. As you say, users learn that they can reorder, as soon as you explain the reorder option. Which means your options are not descriptive enough.

I will try two things. One is to get rid of drop down, and instead use buttons. Buttons are one click, while drop down needs two. Second will be to rename the options. Your user base might be considering "Reorder" as equivalent to "Order same thing again". Next time, when you contact any user, ask them what they think reorder option was for. That should give you full insight on why user is missing the option.

Also, I will consider if user is even using the "New order" option, or if they are starting from scratch like they did the first time. If they do use your dropdown, it is just description that need to change. If they don't use the dropdown at all, you should improve visibility of the options. One idea is to move the buttons closer to eyesight when the page loads (closer to the center of the page or the last page's navigation button that brought user to this page). Another idea will be to create some contrast from other options in the page.

If I am unable to explain it properly, do let me know. I will try to add some examples to help.

Edit: For the dropdown issue, consider this link. https://baymard.com/blog/drop-down-usability

Idea is if you have fixed number of options and very limited options, buttons or radio buttons are better than dropdown. Especially in your case where it is compulsory, it is unnecessary hassle for the user. It is not going to help your case directly, but will provide your options some extra visibility.

  • Great answer. Customers think Reorder is for exactly the same, we're aware of this, that's why the new language explains that changes are allowed, but still seems insufficient, perhaps because users aren't bothering reading the text inside the (). We have asked customers what language makes sense, but the answers have been all over the place. By the way, the dropdown is required, it can't be left blank, not sure if you were clear on that or not. Customers definitely need the New Order option sometimes.
    – Goose
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 15:51
  • I meant, you can convert the dropdown to two buttons instead. Create two sections with more information, and add the buttons. That should give your options higher visibility over similar dropdowns. These are bigger actions than say selecting the color of the product. Commented May 30, 2017 at 15:56
  • Hmmm, I'm not sure why having the choice be more visible helps. It's a required field already. I am not convinced that making the choice more visible will cause them to make the right choice more often.
    – Goose
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 15:58
  • Sorry, I didn't mean that it will directly help with usage rate. It is just going to make your options easier to use and more visible. Plus, only 2 options in a dropdown list is not considered a great experience. Let me find more articles on this matter. Will edit this comment again. Commented May 30, 2017 at 16:01
  • Oh no, I agree that it may make more sense to have buttons than a 2 option drop down, and I may implement that change. No need to persuade me of that.
    – Goose
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 16:07

If you get a high volume of Reorders then prompt for that first and up front.

Want to speed things up? Why not drop in an Order Number from last time you shopped with us!

If you haven't got an existing order number or if you just want to order something completely different please continue to place a new order.


It looks to me that you're just missing a very simple solution:

  • New Order
  • Reorder
  • Similar Order

The "Similar Order" is what you currently call "Reorder". "Reorder" itself is almost the same flow - you'll still offer to change the fields, but the default is just to skip that and submit the order directly.


it might be as simple as having one option 'Order' and on that page a drop down to copy a previous order details which you can edit or not.

this approach is good if the main use case is ordering something from scratch.

  • Per the question "I am unable to populate the form with the data of previous orders."
    – Goose
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 13:08

Often, users are best served by not asking questions at all, but providing sensible defaults. Assuming that re-ordering is a common enough use case, I would do the following:

  • Remove the question re-order / new order question completely.
  • Pre-fill the order form with the values that were entered in the previous order (if it doesn't make sense to re-use certain values, leave those out)
  • Display a highly visible message above the form, saying something like:

    We pre-filled the choices you made last time. You can also start with an empty form.

    Where "start with an empty form" is a button that clears the form.

  • Per the question "I am unable to populate the form with the data of previous orders."
    – Goose
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 13:08
  • Ah, sorry, I missed that. Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 22:05

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