Perhaps to prevent users from closing the window or application inadvertently?

But is it also a distraction because the color of red stands out? Any insights?

  • 4
    Haven't this been red for ages? At least since Win XP. May 26, 2011 at 13:24
  • Yes it has been red, but what I find interesting is that it is now the largest button in the corner of the window. May 26, 2011 at 13:33
  • In Mac OS X the close button is red too by default.
    – user371
    Jun 1, 2011 at 18:14
  • 1
    It's red in Ubuntu too. Well, kind of. It's actually sort of Orange-ish. But pretty close to red.
    – Ajedi32
    Apr 4, 2014 at 18:07
  • 1
    Here's a little history on the close button (and minimize/maximize) blog.placeit.net/evolution-of-the-titlebar-buttons
    – user57204
    Nov 13, 2014 at 15:05

3 Answers 3


Red might be distracting but it also has a definite cultural association with "stop" or end, and that makes it intuitive right away.

Often intuition is more important than power, or even ease of use. This is why we still see anachronistic icons like diskette to indicate save - of course the argument can be made that such a button is not intuitive to the newest users.

It is worth noting that the button is only red for active windows, so it can also become a very visible indication of which window is in use when a large desktop is used, multiple monitors or any other situation where the screen is not populated by one maximized window.

Opinion wise I think any time intuition encroaches on long-term usability there should be a way to disable that feature, even if it is only accessible to more savvy users (as by then, those users have less need for the intuition as they are more familiar with the functionality).

  • 3
    "a definite cultural association" ... in Western/European cultures, certainly. Elsewhere, other conotations - e.g. courage, heroism and purity. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red#Eastern_and_African_traditions for more. More importantly, this shows we all need to be very careful when working on UX as our own cultural bias can be misleading.
    – Bevan
    May 26, 2011 at 20:45
  • @Bevan: And yet, red on traffic lights nowadays more or less everywhere means "stop". While one should be aware of theoretical differences, I think it's counterproductive to cling too closely on the traditional meaning of colours by culture, as long as these colours are really abstract colours and not linked to a specific object. Oct 12, 2015 at 12:47

I would imagine it's red because it is in close proximity to minimize and maximize, and it is a 'danger' button.

It's also a button people use quite a bit. I don't have any data, but I close windows far more often than I minimize or maximize.

Instead of color, I think it would be a better practice to place it farther away from the other window controls to avoid accidental clicks. I doubt Microsoft will change this in the near future because their users are used to its location.

  • 1
    "I don't have any data, but I close windows far more often than I minimize or maximize." especially now that you can maximize a window by dragging it to the top of the screen, which is new in Windows 7 I believe.
    – Tyler
    May 26, 2011 at 17:52
  • 1
    We actually had the oposite problem when we went from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. Win 3.1 had no close button in the right corner. There were only maximize and minimize up there, far to the right. I have no idea why MS decided to introduce a close button at the same spot as the maximize button used to be, but you can imagine all the users trying maximize their application on autopilot. With the "maximize button" up there in the right corner :) May 26, 2011 at 18:45

I think this button is made to look differently from its neighbors to prevent accidental clicking, with the color red conveying an implicit warning not to use this button lightly.

By having it positioned at the very corner of the window, its color will not distract from the window content. Also, as this red button is a standard convention with Windows software since at least ten years (before XP, I believe it was grey like its neighbors), people are likely to have learned how to use it.

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