How to Use Arrow and Ellipsis Affordances

by on 05/02/12 at 1:18 am

Text labels aren’t the only thing that describe what users are clicking. The two most common affordances on menus and buttons are arrows and ellipses. Affordances are qualities on a user interface element that describes the actions users can take. Using them right can make your interface more intuitive.

Arrow Affordances on Buttons and Menus

Arrow affordances have different meanings on menus and buttons. An arrow affordance on a button emphasizes to users that clicking the button will complete an action that takes them to another page. They’re effective for making your call-to-action buttons stand out.

How to Use Arrow and Ellipsis Affordances

Arrows on a button and link

An arrow affordance on a menu doesn’t mean that the user interface will complete an action. When it’s on a menu, it’s telling users there are more options under a label. Without the arrow affordance, users won’t know that there are more options they can choose from.

How to Use Arrow and Ellipsis Affordances

Arrows on a menu

Ellipsis Affordances on Buttons and Menus

Sometimes a button or menu option will open a modal window instead of completing an action. An ellipsis affordance tells users this is what happens. In the english language, writers use ellipses for unfinished thoughts. On a user interface, designers use ellipsis on buttons and menus for unfinished actions. The user completes the action on the modal window.

How to Use Arrow and Ellipsis Affordances

Ellipses on buttons

How to Use Arrow and Ellipsis Affordances

Ellipses on a menu

Affordances Make User Interfaces More Intuitive

Words aren’t always enough to communicate everything on a user interface. Arrow and ellipsis affordances give users a better idea of what the user interface will do so that they can take the right action. When interfaces are intuitive, users can click without worrying about the consequences. In this case, affordances speak louder than words.


How to Use Arrow and Ellipsis Affordances How to Use Arrow and Ellipsis Affordances

Author and editor-in-chief of UX Movement. Loves great web experiences and fights for the user.

One Response to “How to Use Arrow and Ellipsis Affordances”

  1. H.E.A.T.

    Oct 15th, 2012

    This is a very enlightening article.

    I have seen the two affordances used, but always thought they were used more for looks than for function.

    These are the types of informational articles I enjoy reading. Keep up the good work.

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