I'm designing an internal system and I'm trying to achieve better consistency amongst the different types of pages that I have.

For every functionality the main page is a "Search" page. And given that it is a "Search" page, the search button has been highlighted. This is shown on the following picture.

Sample search page

For one specific page, I'm not sure if I'm going the right way. It's the heart of the system and the user is supposed to fill a lot of fields in a specific order. So, I designed the page with tabs:

Main page, insert mode

The first tab has quite a few form fields. On the second tab, the user is supposed to click on a link to add clients to this record. This link calls a "modal window". But here's the catch.

The content of this modal is a wizard. The first page of this wizard is the same search that can be accessed from somewhere else in the system.

Main page, insert mode, modal window

From my point of view, this time we are inside a modal and the primary action is to save (associate) a new client with the record being generated "behind" the modal. And this only happens after the user goes through the pages of this wizard.

So, I understand that the primary action of this modal is "save". So, "Save" is highlighted. Searching is no longer a primary action (since we are inside the modal). So, "Search" is no longer highlighted.

I was asked about consistency, since "Search" is highlighted when we go to this same page outside the modal.

So, my question is: Should the whole modal have one primary action? Or since we have a wizard, every page of the wizard can have its own primary action?

If I'm displaying the same content in different contexts, should I keep everything the same to keep it consistent or is it understandable that context can change for example the primary action?

Extending my question, if my modal didn't have a wizard, should I leave only "Save" as primary and display the search button as a "regular" button?

2 Answers 2


If I was the user, I would prefer your solution.

Consistency in this context means that the same buttons should be on the same place. Having "the primary" button highlighted is consistent as well - deciding the meaning of "the primary" is an important decision for the whole team though, I would say that "Next" is the primary button for a wizard, which would be disabled on the last page, so "Save" would be primary on that one.


I think it could also depend on how much time the user will spend on the main page. If they are used to have "Search" as the primary action, they will probably expect the same from the wizard. Besides, users are used to simply press "Enter" to apply a search.

However, highlighting the "Save" button might help to avoid confusion, since it would draw the user's attention. As Aprillion stated in their answer, you could even highlight the "Next" button for the first steps of the wizard, then eventually highlight "Save".

It could be something you should experiment with to get the different feels, but personally I would say yes; context can change the primary action, and sometimes even should.

  • Welcome to the site, @Linkyu! Can you provide evidence to support your assertions that "users are used to simply press[ing] Enter to apply a search" or that "highlighting the Save button would surely help to avoid confusion." Dec 31, 2014 at 1:48
  • 1
    @3nafish Thanks for the welcome; I was on mobile when I submitted that answer, and I was mostly talking from personal experience but I can try to expand on the points you mentioned. I couldn't find any document explicitly stating so, but considering how often is the "Is the Search button mandatory?" question asked on UX (even though the answer is almost always yes), I assumed it was common practice. There is a talk about something similar on this question though, but...
    – Linkyu
    Dec 31, 2014 at 12:09
  • ...no source was provided. It would be interesting to see if any actual research has been made on this behaviour, see how common it is for people to expect the Enter button to submit the search. Should I make it a question on UX actually, or?
    – Linkyu
    Dec 31, 2014 at 12:11
  • Also, I slightly edited the second paragraph according to what you pointed out. The way I had worded it was quite lacking in explanation, sorry about that.
    – Linkyu
    Dec 31, 2014 at 12:32

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