It's generally recommended to place a Back, or Cancel button depending on information committed, on multi-step systems to allow the user to escape a process.

It is one of the most basic heuristics for interaction design to support user control and freedom by allowing users an "emergency exit" out of any situation they may have entered.


Cancel is mainly useful for multi-step dialogs where the user has progressed past one or more pages with actions. At this time, pressing the Back button will not undo these actions and it would be better if the user would click Cancel.


However, sites like Amazon do not conform to this recommendation as seen in both their checkout and registration process. They do not offer a visible back or cancel on either their checkout or registration.

What is the rationale for not offering a user a way to escape these processes? Are there any studies, articles about the benefits of removing these feature from checkout, registrations or other multi-step processes?

1 Answer 1


Best [for users] isn't always best [for business]

Sometimes usability and profit don't line up. At least, not in the short term. And businesses are rather adverse to long term perspectives these days.

Amazon ran a lot of tests on that checkout flow over time (I ran a similar test myself). The question was (is?), will more users make it through the checkout funnel when we take away options? Amazon found the answer to be "yes" for their market. My test was inconclusive, but not negative.

Keep the cattle moving

The hypothesis is that once a customer enters "checkout mode" you want to capitalize on that mindset. Keep them focused on finishing the sale and they're less likely to drop out, whether they like it or not.

Seeing the navigation, recommendations, or anything else not related to handing over a credit card number might cause users to have second thoughts about their purchase. They might also start experiencing shopping cart scope creep:

I came for this but ...
-- scans the nav again, backs out of cart --
Maybe I should get some of those too ...
-- jumps to a new category --
I'd better think about it.
-- sets the tablet down --
I'll come back later.
-- doesn't come back later --

A measurable chunk of users won't come back. Those kinds of problems can be pretty big when you have as many options as Amazon does.

  • 1
    Agreed with this, and to piggy-back off the recommendation I would add that there is a difference depending on the situation, like the ability to Cancel or go Back during the Checkout Process versus Registration or some other form submission. Sep 2, 2015 at 17:46

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