I am working on a multi-page form for creating a higher education course. The likely use cases would be a reasonably long one-session creation, or a multi-session creation. We are currently showing a 'cancel' link which essentially discards all new data since the form has been saved, and takes them to the previous step in the create course task (which is questionable as a default, since it is uncertain whether moving back a step is really beneficial in cases where they cancel). Since there are other navigation options available to the user (breadcrumbs, menu, etc.), I am finding it hard to find a reason to keep the cancel link on the page. The only scenarios where a cancel link seems valuable to me is in the case of a modal form, or other, more disruptive element that a user would be likely to want to exit, and where there is an obvious place to default to (e.g. the underlying page with the main task in the case of a modal). Can anyone think of a reason to keep a 'cancel' action on a form like this?

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3 Answers 3


As it stands, the use of the word 'Cancel' for that button makes it very confusing to understand its function and they way the button works in unintuitive.

It might be a matter of changing the button's functionality and changing the wording of the button to clarify what it actually does. Perhaps the button should allow users to exit the process without saving and a better wording for it would be something like 'Discard changes'; this would make clear to the users that they will abandon the process and lose all their unsaved changes.

In my view, this behaviour would be more in line with the users' expectations; since going back to the previous step and undoing your changes is not something that gets associated with the word cancel.

  • I agree that the label is incorrect, if we choose to keep the functionality. I also think that "exit without saving" or "discard changes" functionality also maybe doesn't need to be included in line with the primary functions of the page (e.g. Submit, Save Progress, etc.). I am leaning towards just getting rid of the button altogether as it doesn't seem to offer anything beyond what other navigation options do.
    – Rath_Er
    Mar 31, 2014 at 16:07
  • Yeah, it's quite hard to say whether the button is needed or not; I guess it would depend on things such as conventions used throughout the system and users' expectations regarding the form's functionality; perhaps it would give users a nice feeling to let them choose to 'exit without saving' even though we know that, to achieve that, all you need to do is close your application. Small details like this may increase their confidence in the application.
    – Jose B
    Mar 31, 2014 at 20:29

I don't find any arguments for placing "Cancel" button on this form. "Cancel" means abandon whole process, not go back to the previous step. I would consider to add some autosave mechanism, user shouldn't think about saving his work, system should display information that all changes are saved. E.g. Google Keep:

Google Keep autosave


You may need to rethink the button wording as @Jose mentioned. The cancel button gives me the impression that if I click on it, it will cancel the whole process. I wouldn't feel confident to click it. Maybe 'Reset' or 'Reset to Default' are a better choice. However, before make any changes I would have a clear goal of what you want to achieve there. Do you really want the users to take action? Can the application function properly without the button? What will happen if the user find out a mistake after click the 'Save Progress'? Is there a way to fix it?

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