I find it annoying when users are explicitly instructed to use the Back button to navigate away from a webpage. An example from the login page for the Contensive CMS follows (emphasis added):

The content on this web site is managed and delivered by the Contensive Site Management Server. If you do not have member access, please use your back button to return to the public area.

This wording can be condescending to experienced users who know how to navigate away from a page, because the user is given specific instructions to perform a very simple operation. Is it necessary to specifically instruct users to use the Back button to do so rather than simply instruct users to simply go back or otherwise leave the page (without explicitly mentioning the Back button)? What advantage does telling the user what control to use (such as the Back button) bring in relatively simple interfaces such as Web browsers? What alternative wording can be used to instruct a user to navigate away from a webpage?

Note that this question is not limited to site administration pages. I've seen such messages in pages where a specific piece of content (such as a picture) is displayed; the user is told to click Back to exit the page once the user has finished viewing it.

  • 1
    Rather off topic - but in the early days of the internet I used to watch users get terribly frustrated that the Back Button didn't take them back - because they'd opened a new window from the site that they were originally on...
    – PhillipW
    Apr 9, 2012 at 8:54

1 Answer 1


The way that error message is phrased, it almost sounds like the system cannot determine if you have membership access or not? In other words, if you don't have member access, why are you allowed in that area in the first place? So I'm a little puzzled by that.

To answer your question, it is better to embed navigation within the error message. Also, the error message should tell you how you can solve the problem. (i.e. get membership)

I would phrase the error like this:

"Sorry, only registered member can access this area. You can SIGN UP or RETURN TO HOME to learn more about our service"

  • Note that the message is displayed in an area normally used solely for administration of the content on the site, much like the wp-admin page on WordPress sites. It is not an area intended for public access. That said, I find messages specifically asking the user to use the Back button in a variety of contexts. The question is not limited to this specific context.
    – bwDraco
    Apr 9, 2012 at 1:46
  • If you're looking for the actual source, see contensive.com/index.asp?bid=2832&method=login. Once again, the question is not specific to site administration pages. I also see it in places like photo lightboxes, as well as other pages where a specific object is displayed to the user for temporary viewing and exited once the user is finished viewing it.
    – bwDraco
    Apr 9, 2012 at 1:51

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