I am designing a multi-page form for creating course proposals at a university. Once the record for the proposal is created, the user has a variety of different options for what to do for the proposal. They can cancel/delete it, copy it to a new proposal, print, download, add/read comments, add/read decisions. Our UX team is debating whether there is value to using visual design to indicate severity of actions to the user, and differentiate actions that would fundamentally change the item or trigger a new action (cancel, copy) vs. those things that serve as additional information for the task (print, see comments). Some ideas we have had for differentiation are size, color treatment of the different actions. Some members of the team prefer the clean look of using the same size icons with no differentiation between the different types of actions, and think that indicators of severity would be superfluous. Anybody have experience with this, or know of user-studies that have investigated this issue?

Differently Styled Action Buttons

Uniform Action Button Styles

1 Answer 1


As you pointed in the question, there are two types of actions: ones, which defines flow of an item, and ones, which provides additionat functionality. I recomend separate both groups in a clear way, making the primary group more distinct with text, placing and formatting.

enter image description here

Your icons are not very distinctive, too.

  • Thanks for the answer. A couple of items I forgot to mention in my post was that we are designing for expert users, so we have the freedom to be a bit more subtle with the styling since they are likely to use the application repeatedly. Also, our users prefer to have the design be denser, so we have actively tried to minimize the vertical space our header is taking up, since the highest priority for them is filling out the proposal. I'm afraid that moving the buttons would create too big a gap between the top of the page and the form itself.
    – Rath_Er
    Feb 4, 2014 at 0:07

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