I implemented a webpage that in practice was a dead end and it just said "Your registration is complete. Please press the button to go back." and there was a button to go back to the page from where the registration was. It might sound somewhat awkward but it turned out very natural and easy to understand and looked good. But it really should not have been a button but a link shouldn't it? Or is it acceptable to make a button instead of a link when it "feels right" to have a button instead of a link? Or is there any rule-of-thumb to know what should be a link and what's to be a button? I understand that buttons should be for submits but a button can also be an indication that something more important than just navigation is taking place e.g. "You are done with the registration." or likewise.

For instance, the use case "Ask question" here is an action that is an action that a link can make and any way it's implemented as a button.

Can you comment and/or answer when it is more right to use a button that a link for simple navigation that is not like form submits? I understand that links are used more in websites than in desktop apps, but desktop apps can also use links while it is sometimes more instructive to have a button that will open up a browser window. What do you think?

  • 1
    Of course, in this particular case, what's wrong with a link "continue", "proceed" or some such, that simply leads to the same place? I'd be confused by an instruction to "go back" after completing something, but an option to "continue" (as in continue using the site) makes a lot of sense. – user Feb 25 '13 at 8:30

A button performs an action. E.g. Save, delete, register, submit.

A link connects you to resource. E.g. a URL or a file.

Think of buttons as verbs and links as nouns.

That said, there are also other distinctions. Often a link is used where you would have a button, but where you want to de-emphasise the action. Often for secondary options or high risk options like delete.

In the end you neet to use what works best for your situation rather than blindly follow any set rule.

  • 3
    +1, " Often a link is used where you would have a button, but where you want to de-emphasise the action" well put exception. – Sedat Kapanoglu Feb 25 '13 at 15:44

There are no specific rules for buttons v/s links.

By definition, links should be used as navigational elements that would take the user to other pages of the site/app/product. Whereas buttons should be used to perform certain specific actions even though that action is performed on other pages.

But in practice links are often used to de-emphasize clickable actions on a page whereas buttons are used to emphasize action items, be it navigational actions or other actions user is expected to do on a page.

You should decide based on the context of usage when to use buttons v/s links but the above given differences work well in most cases.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.