reset buttons and online forms

December 05, 2003 | View Comments (17) | too easy

Have you ever taken the time to fill out an excruciatingly long online form only to get to the end and accidentally press the "reset/clear" button? We have on more than one occasion and are now asking ourselves are these buttons even a necessity anymore? It seems that someone thought it would be a good idea to make an easy solution for users to delete all their time, yet they seem to have made it too easy for users to do. We figure if the user does not wish to fill out the form then they will click the Back button or something. If there are a couple of lines that need to be corrected then they will delete those and type again. However, we have yet to feel the need to erase a WHOLE form so that we could start over again. We guess that is why you will not find those silly buttons on any sites we design. brandmedicines.com

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I agree with you and while I'm not 100% sure I do think there is some usability data out there that backs this up. I don't have any myself, but then again I've lost the reset button on my forms long ago.

I know in my own experience the reset or clear button is less than useless.

Posted by: Keith at December 5, 2003 12:51 PM

Yeah, the W3C should seriously think about making the reset button a...ummm, what is that word...deprecated attribute. It is useless and only seems to upset people.

Posted by: Scrivs at December 5, 2003 06:43 PM

On one forum I use to visit if you post comment the "submit" button is on the left and the "reset" button on the right side of the form, but when you write new topic it is opposite.

Grrrrrrr it was more then one time that I have lost whole inspired text I wrote.

Posted by: zoka at December 6, 2003 06:05 AM

I can see how the form on the forums would be particularly frustrating. More than likely the creators of the forum software were programmers first and designers never. Amazing what happens when people do not take the time to use common sense.

Posted by: The Scholar at December 6, 2003 08:59 AM

Great point on the danger of RESET... but I have a few questions : first, is RESET ever used to return a form (say a form that's used in a "preference" panel) to its original state — but not a null state? If I'm in a preferences panel, have made changes and want to return to the original state a RESET button is a great idea.

Second, do web users expect some kind of CANCEL button? They're being faced with a choice SUBMIT or *what*? Will people really think that not submitting is the same as CANCELLING? I have my doubts... as when I'm in a software setting, I expect my settings to stay set when I leave, though I don't ever submit them.

Anyway, if we are to use RESET buttons — and I'm not sold on the idea of giving them up — they should be visually distinct, and decidedly less inviting. In my own designs, I set the RESET buttons to the same background as the page and always place them at the far left of the choices. SUBMIT or PREVIEWS are brightly colored, emboldened, and at the right.

Just some thoughts.

Posted by: Silus Grok at December 6, 2003 01:15 PM

Well if a user wanted to CANCEL and you were concerned about them not knowing that they could just click a link off the page or press the BACK button then maybe it would be useful to provide a link under or above the submit button saying "If you don't want to submit this info click here". Not in those words, but you should get the idea.

If you are filling out a form for online preferences then I don't think using the word "SUBMIT" would be to useful. If there are settings that are to be saved then I would use "SAVE" and if my previous preferences were the default values then a button saying "Go back to default" maybe.

If I am editing my preferences and all the textboxes are pre-filled with my current information, then adding a reset button would only cause confusion. If an inexperienced user clicks on the RESET button then all the textboxes clear and in their mind that could mean their information is lost. Pretty scary for them.

Posted by: The Scholar at December 6, 2003 01:24 PM

The point of "RESET" is not to clear a form. It's to reset it to its initial values. It just so happens that a lot of trivial forms don't have default values, like the one I'm using to post this comment. But, "RESET" is sometimes handy on more involved forms, like a series of forms for a checkout, user preference info (like mentioned above), etc...

Also suppose I preview this comment: Say I mess up making an edit and want to return the textarea to my original pre-viewed text, hitting the back button (and expecting my text to still be there) to repost the form may not always work.

I think it serves an important purpose, more complicated forms still need it. Other forms just don't need one, but they shouldn't remove it from any W3 Recommendation....last I checked, the standard doesn't require one in a


Though they are utilized _appropriately_ infrequently, depracating to me sounds like "depracate anchor tags b/c people can just copy and paste the URL into the address bar"

Anyway, that's just my opinion...

Posted by: defHex at December 6, 2003 08:29 PM

I agree with a number of the sentiments above ... here's my synopsis:

RESET buttons which reset a form to a default setting (not necessarily a nul setting) are useful when used appropriately.

A CANCEL button which simply _cancels_ the action, and then deposits us at a page which explains that the action was cancelled is also important.

RESET and CANCEL are not interchangeable.

RESET should be used carefully.

Posted by: Silus Grok at December 7, 2003 04:34 PM

Found this link while searching Google, thanks

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