The Cancel button belongs in many places, but a form is not one of them. Their presence on forms isn’t as common as before because designers are starting to realize how useless and confusing they are. It’s time to put the final nail in the coffin for Cancel buttons on forms for good.
Cancel buttons don’t belong on forms for a couple of reasons. One is that it gives users the opportunity to accidentally click on it when it’s mistaken for the Submit button. Removing the Cancel button completely removes the chances of this mistake happening. A Cancel button may also communicate to users that the Back button doesn’t work on the form page. Of course, the Back button does work, but the Cancel button gives users the impression that the only way out of the form is through the Cancel button.
Most users have a habit of relying on the Back button when they land on a page they want to leave. A form page should not change that consistency because the Back button is what users are most comfortable and familiar with. Form pages should function like any other page on a website, so that users won’t get confused as to why they can’t go back a page.
There’s no room for Cancel buttons on forms, but they do have a rightful place in other situations. There are two situations where Cancel buttons make sense.
The first situation is confirmation windows. Confirmation windows tell users that a process is about to begin. The user is given the choice to go ahead with or cancel the process. A Cancel button here is useful and effective because without one the user has no choice but to go ahead with the process.
The second situation is progress bars. Progress bars display when a process is in progress. While in progress, the user can still cancel the process before it finishes. A Cancel button here is useful and effective because without one the user has no other way out of the process.
The Cancel button gives users freedom when used appropriately. When they’re not used appropriately, they can give users a sense of confinement. Cancel buttons have no place on forms. For the sake of good form design, it’s time to say goodbye to them once and for all.