Why Your Form Buttons Should Never Say Submit

by on 01/05/11 at 10:27 pm

When you see a Submit button on a form, what comes to your mind? One could easily reason that clicking the button submits the user’s information into the system for processing. A Submit button describes what the system does well, but it doesn’t describe what the user does at all.

When users fill out a form, they are engaging in a task. The action button should affirm what that task is, so that users know exactly what happens when they click that button. The more clear your form is, the more likely you’ll get users to complete it.

A form button that says Submit gives users the impression that the form isn’t focused on a specific task. It also gives off the impression that your website is not user-friendly because you’re speaking in a technical way that most users aren’t familiar with. If this is the impression your users get when they fill out your form, you can bet that you’re losing a few users in the process.

Your form button should describe exactly what the user is doing in their task. For example, if they are signing up for an account, a button that says Create Account tells users that clicking the action button creates an account. It’s clear and task-specific. If the button had said Submit, users would likely question what happens when they click the form button. This creates a level of uncertainty for users that designers can easily avoid simply by using a button that describes the result of the user’s task.

Although Submit buttons aren’t as prevalent as they once were, they still exist on forms today. The good thing is that fixing them is simple. It requires nothing more than labeling your button with a task-specific action. It might not seem like a huge difference at first, but when you find that more users are completing your forms, you’ll know that a clear and focused action button works best.

114 Responses to “Why Your Form Buttons Should Never Say Submit”

  1. Dominic

    Sep 30th, 2011

    It always comes down to A/B testing to see which button creatives works the best.

  2. Abir

    Oct 19th, 2011

    Good thinking. Now let me check the multivariate tests results for this.

  3. Aria Web Design Sullivan

    Nov 14th, 2011

    Thanks for posting. I think you raise a good point about the button saying exactly what will happen when you press it. I can’t tell you how many times poor web design has led to my purchasing something I had no real intent of purchasing, or posting a comment that I definitely did not want to post. At the same time, however, depending on what the button’s function is, most people can figure out what “Submit” is referring to in the context.

  4. Science and math

    Dec 4th, 2011

    I really agree with you dude! status=currently changing(^_^)

  5. Towfiq I.

    Jan 17th, 2012

    Interesting post. This also make the form more humane.

  6. Matt

    Feb 13th, 2012

    Hi there,
    This is not something I’d really considered much before; something I made a passive effort to do – after reading this I think I will be making much more effort to ensure all of my buttons are appropriately labelled (or valued in HTML terms hehe)
    Matt

  7. Sean

    Feb 26th, 2012

    Interestingly, many designers know about it, but not all of them remember it when it comes to design a new website :)

  8. Xavier

    Feb 27th, 2012

    Hi,

    Interesting post but I dont agree with everything in it. I think your point about having an explicit button labels describing tasks is only valide for 1 page long forms or to facilitate the uptake of a process at the start (e.g. a “Register now” button on a page that then leads to an application forn).

    When it comes to application processes containing multiple steps for example, the use of a submit button at the end is perfectly valid. Even if I agree that the term is system-centric, users recognise the button as being the last click before completion of the process. In other words, “submit” is for many part of the form jargon and users expect to see “next” and “submit” buttons. Equally in those situations, i dont think the final action needs to be explicitly labeled on the button. Using another label may even confuse users who would expect a “submit” button.

    • caronnect

      Aug 26th, 2012

      Re application processes: Yes, you can get away with Next and Submit in a process flow, but why make users work harder? Design it in a more user-centred way and reduce the load for users. Next is okay mid-process, but the final submit button should be explicitly stating what they’re submitting, and affirming that the user has successfully completed the task.

      • Barry A. Martin

        Sep 6th, 2012

        Actually, now that I think of it, I rather like the official sounding confirmation that my multi step form or changes are being ‘submitted’ for processing.

        If you fill in a long process, it feels weird to have ‘Register’ at the end, vs. the more definitive sounding ‘submit.

        So ‘Register’ to start the process and ‘submit’ to finish feel right anecdotally.

  9. Swapnil

    Mar 12th, 2012

    true those button turn me off too

  10. Lit d appoint

    Apr 4th, 2012

    Hi there,
    This is not something I’d really considered much before; something I made a passive effort to do – after reading this I think I will be making much more effort to ensure all of my buttons are appropriately labelled (or valued in HTML terms hehe)
    Matt

  11. Karol

    Apr 7th, 2012

    This website is a great repository of web UX rules. I am glad I found you on the web!

  12. peter

    Apr 18th, 2012

    Hello

    and what is with buttons in a wizard?
    should they call “next” or is a other term better?

    • Mark

      May 3rd, 2012

      If it’s in a wizard, give the user a clue to what comes next. This is especially important so the user knows if they are going to another input screen, or if they are finalizing/submitting the full form.

  13. Hi there,
    This is not something I’d really considered much before; something I made a passive effort to do – after reading this I think I will be making much more effort to ensure all of my buttons are appropriately labelled (or valued in HTML terms hehe)
    Matt

Leave a Comment