Should "Delete" buttons or other critical buttons be marked with more emphasis or should actually go unnoticeable?

For instance which of these is the best practice when making a "Delete" or perhaps "Cancel Booking" button (which will delete all data):

  • Make it same as other buttons but use a "red" background
  • De-emphasize it and make it just a normal link
  • De-emphasize it and make it just a normal link but also color it "red" (it's not so emphasized but making it red makes it look like it's still a 'critical' action)

This is considering that any of these buttons will still have a "confirmation" alert box asking to "double" confirm the user's action.

Just wondering what will be better on the surface.

7 Answers 7


Is "Delete" the primary action?

  • If not, then you could de-emphasize it, and emphasize the primary action more.

  • If it is the primary action, then you could make it pop out more.

And the confirmation dialog is always good with delete buttons.


Don't emphasize

Design-wise, the delete button should normally not be red or emphasized, unless that matches your design, or you want to invite the eye towards the button.

Unwanted deletions can be handled in so many ways, for example requiring two steps, or not making the delete so fatal: A confirmation question "Are you sure you want to delete?"; Undo support; keeping a trash can with restoration function; or providing an Archive function, as a complement to the delete.

Is an unwanted deletion of your object actually a fatal action? A red button in a global menu is showing the user a warning at all times, no matter if she is about to use it or not. If you design the functionality free from fatal actions at your finger tips, you can achieve a visual design that does not convey fatality, free from constant, unsettling warnings signs.


Using your second option,

De-emphasize it and make it just a normal link [or button]

... you could still warn by making it red upon hover; give the user options; and always require a confirmation in one way or another.


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

You do not want a user to open your program and first think "Oh, there is a delete button!", and then afterwards "hmm, it seems to be a booking system". :) Let's not greet our customers with warnings.

  • What if it's the primary action?
    – JohnGB
    Mar 21, 2013 at 12:19
  • A primary action should be emphasized, but probably not red. From the question I am assuming this is one of several actions, but not the primary one.
    – JOG
    Mar 21, 2013 at 12:43
  • On the mockups: if you're going to have destructive actions, either don't put them in a menu right next to reversible actions, or provide a confirmation (or allow undo). I can just see someone trying to "Move to Archive", only to click "Delete from database" instead. Whoops.
    – Bob
    Jan 13, 2014 at 5:05
  • That's right, they shouldn't be too close.
    – JOG
    Feb 22, 2014 at 13:46

The more you de-emphasize the button allowing to perform an undesired (often from strategical, not only UX perspective) action, the less tempting for the users it will be to click it. Thus, it will lead to lower process drop and better conversion.

How it should be done depends on the system. If it's a tool and user is just inside an everyday process, you can make the [Delete] button smaller, or even make it a link but still you need to emphasize it (e.g. using red) to make it obvious it performs important and destructive for the process action. It should also be followed by a confirmation dialogue.

When in pipeline, users should have just one way ahead and a back door possible to find if they really want it. Hence in these situations [Cancel] or [Delete] buttons/links should be even more de-emphasized.


Deleting any information or cancel booking is loosing users. We should de-emphasize it by keeping it a simple button or an icon instead of a critical action button.


Any deletion should always request for confirmation, using a pop-up for example.

If deletion is a general action in this particular screen, then it's different, it should be considered as a normal action.


I would say never emphasize a Delete button, unless there is a good reason (unlike most of the time). Making a Delete button red might indeed indicate the importance in the action, but in result more users will be clicking it, as it will stand out.

Avoid permanent actions as well, provide the user with Delete Confirmation Dialogues and, depending on your platform/use, a "Trash" functionality with the ability to recover the Deleted Items.


Simply make the "Delete" button more prominent. Make the "Cancel" button less prominent. In regards to the labeling within the buttons, there is no need to put much context into what essentially are simple actions or cancel as that requires more processing on the users part.

  • Hi @Toby. Welcome to the site! Is there any additional evidence you can give that supports your assertion that the Delete button should be more prominent than the Cancel? Jan 12, 2014 at 18:18

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