The site that I am working on, a design guideline is already set that we don't use radio buttons as a selection tool, but always use buttons for such a choice. For example, "Are you a member of this site?" instead of radio buttons with 'next' button for a step process, we're using buttons:

[myself] [a family member] [former member] etc.

The designer proposed putting "a" in the "family member" button and I can't seem to back up my reasoning and it's grammatically more correct, I think it should be just "family member". I looked at the WILTIWLT test and it seems little irrelevant for my case. Any opinions?

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I looked at Microsoft guidelines and they speak about keeping the length of the options similar. In that argument, I feel like "family member" is more similar format to "myself" although it's less grammatically correct.

  • 1
    Could you possibly include an image of how this is laid out? I'm having trouble visualizing if these buttons are positioned inside the sentence or under/after?
    – DasBeasto
    Aug 24, 2015 at 16:30
  • 3
    yes you can. And you should. This is just natural language. Ask yourself the question, how would you answer it? "Family member" or "a family member"? There you have your answer
    – Devin
    Aug 24, 2015 at 16:58
  • I agree with Devin's explanation after intuitively feeling the same way as well. Additionally OP, you can always push aside opinions and guesswork and just perform an A/B test!
    – HC_
    Aug 24, 2015 at 18:50
  • Someone had a comment that both made sense for them, hence shorter is better (it's erased now for some reason). And I like that reasoning.
    – Jade
    Aug 24, 2015 at 18:51
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    @Jade Yes, I converted my comment into a full-blown answer. :)
    – JeromeR
    Aug 24, 2015 at 19:12

1 Answer 1


This is a classic case of guidelines that are in tension.

When guidelines conflict … you compromise

Since your site's style guidelines require you and the designer to misuse command buttons in place of radio buttons, many of the other rules go out the window.

Your question—though not your illustration—lists three choices AND it says "etc." which I take to mean there are more than three buttons.

Sample buttons

Another Microsoft guideline for command buttons says to make these buttons the same width. Some exceptions are permitted, but those do not apply in this case, when all choices must appear to have equal importance, unless you want to lead your users to one particular choice.

Therefore, given the quantity of buttons and the wide layout, the text must be short. In an ideal world, the buttons would be grammatically correct, but in an ideal world, you would be using radio buttons. Maybe it's time to challenge the site's style guidelines:

Traditional radio buttons

By the way, the reason the WYLTIWLT test doesn't work is because these command buttons aren't acting as command buttons but are substituting for radio buttons. All these things point and prod in the same general direction:

  • Are command buttons really your best choice?

That's the real question.

  • 2
    For any other plebeians like me, WYLTIWLT = 'Would you like to? / I would like to', so you don't have to use your Googlefoo.
    – DasBeasto
    Aug 24, 2015 at 19:35
  • 1
    @Dasbeasto, Thank you Gentle GoogleFu Panda, for this reminder. Earlier I edited the question to include a link to WYLTIWLT, and now I've put the same link in my answer.
    – JeromeR
    Aug 24, 2015 at 19:39

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