I am building a website and I have a very light navigation. However within the navigation the user can go a level deeper without the navigation tab changing.

My question is for the user to get back to the previous page should I add a back button to my design or can I rely on the browser back button?

  • 2
    You say 'still' in a way that makes it sound like this is a common pattern already. What websites do have in-page back buttons? It might be different depending on the type of site you are referring to here, so a bit more detail and context might be useful.
    – JonW
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 9:35
  • Agreed with @JonW. Do you mean a "back button" that is actually breadcrumbs? Or a back button that is exactly like a browser?
    – UXerUIer
    Commented Feb 9, 2015 at 13:48

5 Answers 5


In testing I've found that there is a split between people that use the browser back button regularly, and those that never use it.

Also, remember that the browser back button takes you back in history, not back in navigation, and so isn't appropriate for navigation purposes. E.g. If someone enters a page via a shared link or bookmark, they won't have valid navigation history to go back to. back.

If you rely on the browser back button, you are looking for problems. You should make sure that your website is navigable with only what you provide within the website.

TL;DR: Don't rely on a browser's back button for site navigation.

Edit: To be clear, I'm not suggesting that you should use a back button. In fact in most cases, it's simply an excuse for a poorly thought out site structure.

  • 1
    While I absolutely agree with your TL;DR conclusion, I disagree that adding a Back button is a solution to the navigation problem. If it does the same as the browser, then you have won nothing. If it does a different thing, it shouldn't be labelled "back" or it will be confusing. The designer has to construct proper paths through the pages, not add "back" buttons throughout the application.
    – Rumi P.
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 10:27
  • 1
    JohnGB's TLDR is exactly why sites need good information and navigation architecture. This is also having huge effects on mobile designs. Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 10:59
  • @RumiP. I agree, which is why I never said that a back button should be used, only that the browser back button shouldn't be relied on for site navigation. What type of site navigation to use is outside the scope of this question.
    – JohnGB
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 11:00
  • 1
    @JohnGB then I misunderstood your post. I've very often heard the argument "The browser back button is not always good, let's make a Back button on every page which goes wherever the user actually wants to go" that I assumed your post says this too.
    – Rumi P.
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 11:25

I believe that it depends on the purpose of that button. If the user is going a whole webpage back, then the browser back button will suffice. Now a good example of using a customized back button is if the user is going to fill up a form with several steps, viewing a slideshow or browsing through articles/demos with multiple pages.

As an example, you could take a look at tympanus.net:


enter image description here

In this situation, the "<- Previous Demo" button on the upper-left side of the page is not taking you back to the last page that you visited but to the demo that was posted before the current one.

The point here is that if you're just going to take the user back to the last page that he/she visited, just let them use the browser's back button. Otherwise, make your own customized button.

  • 1
    I would like to vote against the back button. In the link shared by @Patrick James Lim, the button on the top right (which reads "back to codrops article") has some significance, if you directly follow the link provided else, is not serving any value addition to the layout.
    – warcops
    Commented Jan 29, 2015 at 10:09

Browser back button is not navigation tool for users to get back to the pervious screen. I an not fully understand the layout of your navigation, but the breadcrumb is always a best practice to help users get back to the previous screen.


I think there are the following things to consider:

  1. Does "going deeper" in a certain navigation tab result in loading a new page or does the information just load up inside of the already opened page?

    If it's the former, a "back"-button would result in performing the same step as the browsers' back button, making it slightly unnecessary

  2. Are your navigation tabs and lower-level-headings telling the user enough about possible contents?

    As going "back" would be the same as simply clicking on the last opened heading there's no new "functionality" provided.

Still, it might still be very useful as users tend to forget "where they came from" which often results in them searching for the page they were at before for a longer time than necessary.

This is especially the case if they missclick on another link without noticing right away.

Overall I agree with the already posted answers. Just wanted to add some thoughts you should probably consider when deciding what to do.


In strict UX terms, I think an in-page back button would only be a reasonable solution to navigate between pages in a single article (and, even then, I would question why the article has been broken up in that way) or a stage in a multi-page process. An alternative solution might be a breadcrumb (either historical or structural) to alert users to the previous level of content: "Home / section / subsection / page"

Another, much more visible, solution might be a secondary (or even tertiary) nav that appears with pages at that level and shows the parent level along with any sibling levels there might be.

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.