Within two different screens of a product I'm designing I would like to use an icon for a secondary action. In both screens using an icon with an X in it seems the most logical choice, although the actions caused by clicking the icon changes depending on the screen a user is in. My question is if this can be confusing to user and if it would be better to think of a different icon for one of the two screens.

Specifically, the first screen shows a list of downloads currently in progress. Clicking the X removes one of the downloads from the queue.

downloads in progress

The second screen shows a list of installed programs, clicking the X will start the uninstall process.

enter image description here

  • 2
    Your current examples are not quite so ideal from an accessibility / usability point of view though. You would be better changing the buttons to provide more detail as to their functionality. 'Cancel Download' and 'Uninstall' would remove any possibility of ambiguity.
    – JonW
    May 3, 2012 at 13:38
  • 1
    "X" to me always means delete, and that the line it's associated with will be removed. Also, I expect any micro control like that to have a tooltip.
    – Reactgular
    May 3, 2012 at 14:49
  • 1
    @MathewFoscarini however you are not a screenreader. Even if it just said 'Delete' that's not particularly clear as to what it's going to delete. (I now realize my comment above should be 'uninstall application' not just 'uninstall')
    – JonW
    May 3, 2012 at 14:53
  • My understanding was that if it's a link A tag, and has a title attribute to hold the tooltip, then screenreaders would read the title. Further more, the designer can put a full description into the link, but hide content to show a background image for the X. This should also work for screenreaders. Correct me if I'm wrong? Cause this is often what I do.
    – Reactgular
    May 3, 2012 at 14:58

3 Answers 3


This should be fine.

In each case the user will understand that "X" means stop the current process. So it's obvious that the first tab "X" means "stop the download". However in the second tab I would have thought that a more intuitive meaning was "stop the install". In this case I would perhaps have a more explicit label if the action is "uninstall".

It is usually OK because ""stop" or "delete" is an action that can apply to many situations and you have to have the context to make sense of it.

  • 1
    If I'm not mistaken, the second screen is not about stopping the active install, but about starting an uninstall for an already installed program - but I can see how the X confused you :-) May 3, 2012 at 13:59
  • @RogerAttrill - ah yes, however my argument still stands.
    – ChrisF
    May 3, 2012 at 14:02

I think this may be confusing for your users. Traditionally "X" are used to close a message/ window as well has hide something from the user as it can run in the background. On first load of this post I assumed the "X" would simply hide the notification informing the user the downloading an file/application is occuring.

I would clearly indicate the action a user is about to preform before they click the button. I.E. Cancel or Uninstall in this particular case. At the same time I agree with Tha Riddla; you might not want users to be able to one click uninstall or cancel a download. Some type of forcing function causing the user to click 2 different items can reduce user error.


In either of those cases, I'd have a confirmation popup/modal. You definitely don't want to give your user a 1 step uninstall and possibly not a 1 step cancel of download, especially if your downloading a large file like an application.

  • @JeffH - I disagree about "X" only being used to close messages. If you look at iTunes downloads, FF download windows, etc. an "X" is commonly used to stop downloads. I do agree that the "X" might be a little confusing regarding the uninstall.
    – Tha Riddla
    May 3, 2012 at 16:35

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