Remove vs. Delete: When to Use Which

Did you know that data removal and deletion are different affordances? It’s important not to confuse the two when you design interfaces.

Deletion removes and destroys data, while removal only takes it away from a data set. Removed data can be retrieved and added back to the set, but deleted data cannot.

Don’t use a delete affordance when you’re only removing data from a set. For example, songs in a playlist are removed, not deleted because the files remain in the database afterward. Users can add them back to the playlist at any time.

Don’t use a remove affordance when you’re deleting data from the database. For example, if the user wants to get rid of a song from a music library, delete would be the proper affordance. The difference here is that the library is the file database, while a playlist is only a copy of it. Removing a song from the library deletes it permanently.

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