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I know that it is preferable to have buttons labeled with verbs, but I'm wondering if there is a benefit of also having a noun following the verb. The specific case I'm looking for is a Save button.

Assuming that there is only one save button on a form, will users react better/differently to an action button labeled "Save" or "Save Thing"? Should saving actions explicitly tell the user what is being saved?

Real data / results from user testing would be ideal for an answer, but general pros/cons based on other research or standards would also be useful.

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The answer is contextual (of course), but in general, you likely want to go with the simplest, most relevant text. In most cases, this means the well-understood 'Save' text is your best bet.

If your button is placed in a context where there are multiple things to 'save' or where the context of what you are saving is otherwise unclear, then you could consider adding additional context, but in most cases, additional text is likely to be overkill and just add clutter.

  • Is there any research or data to back that up? – Midas Mar 8 '16 at 10:27
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Save is usually best, but it depends on the form layout.

If it is clear what the save button refers to, then using the verb without the noun reduces cognitive load for the user:

  • It's more easily scanned
  • She only needs to process one word vs two to understand the function of the button

A well placed Save button often has the following qualities:

  • It appears at the right place in the visual workflow of the page (eg after the user has completed a form)
  • It is clearly an interactive element (eg it's rendered as a button)
  • It's placed in visual relation to the scope of the save operation (eg it appears in the same island as the form, or adjacent to it)

If, on the other hand, the object/scope of the button is not clear (eg if the button is placed away from the form, if there are multiple forms on the same page, or if the button saves content that is outside the displayed page as in a wizard), then it can be necessary to add a noun or even more descriptive text to make the scope of the operation clear to users.

Other people's usability testing is unlikely to be helpful to you because -- as the design critique above suggests -- the effectiveness of 1 vs 2+ words is dependent on the layout of the site.

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