In Windows's window even if you don't hover on the close (cross) button it always stays red. But the minimize or restore button is transparent, if you hover then it will become blue.

So why does this button have this special treatment?


3 Answers 3


Well, when you close an application it is gone. The Windows OS has no control over how software developed by third-parties will handle this very final action. It is up to the developer to ensure that the state is saved.

Will they prompt the user to save their work? Will the browser store the last page you were at if you close it accidentally? Who knows?

In that respect it is potentially a dangerous action, and that may be the reason they decided to label it red for danger.

  • 7
    Agree. In short: close can be destructive where the other options are easily undo-able.
    – Ruudt
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 9:22
  • 2
    Sorry, but that's not a great explanation. Close, minimise and maximise all basically work the same way: Windows sends a signal and the app responds, hopefully by doing the conventional thing. And the "red for danger" thing is just a wild guess - no other mainstream window managers do it, nor did Windows prior to Vista. Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 0:07
  • @SteveBennett What?! The red X came about in XP, which was taking its cues the OS X Aqua theme (which took its cues from... lickability?) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aqua_%28user_interface%29
    – relaxing
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 14:48
  • Regardless of whether you agree with Microsoft's decision doesn't make this answer any less likely.
    – KOVIKO
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 11:58
  • interesting and agree. Just one point that Chrome now doesn't highlight the close button. Guess for the very fact that one can reopen the closed tab(s). Its like closing tabs in chrome is no more destructive, can be re-opened.
    – Praasshant
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 12:40

I've always wondered the same thing but I've never found an explanation from the source.

The confounding part is that using a highly saturated "warning" color is in direct opposition to the fact that it is a destructive action. What they've achieved is undue emphasis.

I tend to think there is more style than substance in this choice. Microsoft was once derided for it's bland interfaces. In response, they've progressively added bursts of color, gradients, transparency, and animation. Most of it is out of place or poorly applied. It's styling, not user-driven design.

I think the red close button falls into this category. They saw it is as an important control so the UI designers went over the top. Partially in response to the rest of the interface being a cluttered mess, I imagine.

  • "using a highly saturated "warning" color is in direct opposition to the fact that it is a destructive action" -- can you justify this?
    – relaxing
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 21:28
  • Red draws attention. In the physical realm it can mean "stay away". In interfaces it most often draws your attention to critical path actions. If you consider something to be a dangerous action, do you make it the visual priority item of your interface? Commented Apr 5, 2014 at 2:33
  • So do you consider the desaturated red in recent version of Windows acceptable? What about the practice of not coloring the X button on defocused windows?
    – relaxing
    Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 17:25
  • Honestly, I'm not that familiar with the latest releases of Windows (I stay away from universally loathed OSs ;). Desaturating would help, but it still seems like a poor choice to emphasize it at all. There must be more critical actions in the UI than "get me outta here". And how many people don't know where to go to close a window? Not coloring on defocused windows becomes necessary because the element is so prominent -- imagine a screen full of little red buttons from overlapping windows. Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 18:02
  • Here's the way it's done now, which is basically the way OS X does it (OS X disappears the icons as well as the colors on unfocused window decorations.) img.wonderhowto.com/img/92/59/63480467185115/0/…
    – relaxing
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 14:39

Because it represents a basic or elementary action that needs to be accessible even for somebody who does not really see the "big picture" of how the relations of application and windows work, or is not really understanding the very concept of window handling.

Try to talk to someone new to computers on the phone - it's all about
"That thing to the right of the Word 'Firefox' above the words 'File' and 'Edit' and so on - Tools?? - No, one row higher, more far right..."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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