I'm having an internal argument with product manager on something.

We've a number of modals used in our product & designing more.

Her argument: Name all buttons on modals the same e.g. 'OK' or 'Cancel'

My argument: Name the buttons on modals to what they do e.g. "Move person"

TBH I know im right :) but can't find any studies to back it up. Any thoughts?

  • Without seeing the modal can't say. Most people are used to OK Cancel modals as they are just used for confirmation. If you are doing more with the modal then you would need to post a sample to get a good answer.
    – paparazzo
    Dec 17, 2014 at 12:21
  • 1
    Never say: "I know i'm right" ! User test both modals, and prove it with reality.
    – Velkommen
    Dec 17, 2014 at 12:23
  • Is it a new product, or are you discussing possible improvements?
    – Wolf
    Dec 17, 2014 at 13:04
  • If both options work, then they are both "right". Your opinion is no more valid than hers, quite possibly it is less so. I don't know this product owner but if it were me I wouldn't be impressed by a "study" that someone found on Google either, unless it applied very specifically to the situation at hand. I also agree with Blam that "OK" and "Cancel" are standard options in a modal dialog - if you want to stray from the standard the burden of proof is on you, not her.
    – Stephen
    Dec 17, 2014 at 13:49

3 Answers 3


There is a research that shows that designers are over-concerned with consistency. While consistency means that users don't have to relearn things (by that increasing usability), consistency for the sake of it isn't exactly what UX is about - weighing all variables involved. Consistency is not everything.

In the case of buttons, the consistency argument completely breaks. A label like 'OK' tells the user nothing of what will happen next if you click on it, as the following mockup demonstrates:


download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

To be able to tell what will happen when they click 'OK', users have to search for clues elsewhere, and that's what the text on modals often provides.

But to increase usability, you should make people read as little as possible. That's exactly what 'Move person' does. If the label isn't clear enough, there longer complementary text to elaborate.


download bmml source

Further references

  • I know UX people need to eat too and need to get a paycheck but you can only re-invent the wheel so many times before you start making a big mess.
    – Stephen
    Dec 17, 2014 at 14:46

Her argument isn't necessarily bad, if your modals are properly displaying a name/function the ok/cancel combo will just fine for a cta compared to named buttons. Instead of trying to find studies to win an argument try and ask your product manager why she thinks to use ok and cancel.

Providing a consistent functionality throughout a system is also considered a good experience.

It is also hard to help when we don't have much to work with, a screenshot example would help a lot.


Consistency is one goal, but it isn't the only goal. It may not be the most important one in this context.

(See also: 'Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.')

The relevant UX principle is: things that look the same should work the same; things that work differently should look different.

"OK" is consistent, but it may produce different results in different contexts. Hence why changing the label text can help the user understand what will happen after the button is clicked.

You can rely on a consistent visual style for the button to help users understand that it serves the same function (confirm/advance/do the thing).

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