I have web page that shows the detail information for a parcel of land. You can do the following things from the page. I included an image with the current setup.

  • return to results
  • show an interactive map
  • print a special print format version of this page
  • view your tax bill
  • view your trim notice
  • Let us know if the Address we have on file is wrong

I originally had the print button in the yellow highlighted area on the image next to the account number. I felt that having a button just "hanging out" below the button set above it was awkward. The Trim Notice button will appear for some time below the situs. Again the button will just be "hanging out".

Of all these items, the most unique is the Tax Bill. It needs to take the user to a completely different agency's website. Users need to understand that.

I'd also appreciate any general advice that I can use as a rule of thumb in the future. So I can show to the client a layout structure that was thought out. They may tell me to do something else, but I'd like a starting point.

Website screen shot

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    Is this question what you're looking for? ux.stackexchange.com/questions/5493/… – JonW Jun 19 '13 at 13:37
  • Or ux.stackexchange.com/questions/2825/… – rk. Jun 19 '13 at 13:42
  • You could detach Tax Bill from the group, but keep it on the same horizontal line. You're using the correct icon from jQuery UI to represent an external link. Instead of calling it Tax Bill. You could label it by the name of the external website. That would be more clear. – Reactgular Jun 19 '13 at 14:29

I think it is always good to stay consistent with the rest of your site, and to a certain extent with common practices.

Is there any other examples in your project of important external links? Is it a high priority action? Can you use iconography to aid?

For example could you take away the Map external link icon (if it displays in a lightbox within your site) leaving the sole external link icon on the Tax Bill. If the Tax Bill is the most important link then you should probably move it before the other links or make a big deal out of it (different colours, sizing, fonts, etc).

So kind of depends on how important the button is in relation to the others its visually linked with, if its much more important then break that link.

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The main issue I can see is that you could end up grouping lots of varied functions into one long toolbar, which although looks nice and neat, will ultimately confuse the user as the scope of each function will vary - even though the buttons 'look' the same.

It's subjective, but I would separate and distinguish the 'on-page' functionality, i.e Print and Map. These work as buttons.

Then perhaps keep links as links (to aid recognition), keeping the external link icon if the user is being taken off the site.

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  • That was my issue with the single bar across the top too. – Mr. Manager Jun 19 '13 at 16:30

Consistency should almost always be your main concern. That said, there are a couple schools of thought regarding whether to use buttons or links.

One philosophy, and the one I tend to follow most, is that buttons should be used for actions and links for navigation. If a user is merely moving from one page to another, links should be used, unless it's part of a workflow in which case a button may be more appropriate. Jakob Nielsen is a bit more flexible, stating links can be used for actions so long as the action is explicitly stated in the link.

Other philosophies describe using buttons and links to indicate primary and secondary actions. And others think users don't care. In my opinion, users may not care, but that doesn't mean the elements we use don't have an impact on user interaction or how usable the page is.

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