(Almost) never add a reset button to a form

There was a time when many, many, forms on the web had a reset button. Thankfully, reset buttons are not quite as common these days, but there are enough of them out there to cause users lots of frustration.

I can’t remember one single time in my years of building web sites that I have encountered a form that actually needed a reset button. That doesn’t mean that there are no valid use cases for reset buttons, but I think it does indicate how rarely they should be used.

One of the very few valid use cases for rest buttons is when a form is filled out repeatedly and frequently by the same user.

When you click a reset button in a form, all controls in the form are reset to their initial values, removing anything you have entered and any changes you have made. This is rarely what the user wants, and it can happen much too easily since

  • reset buttons are often placed next to a submit button, making them easy to click by mistake
  • most of the time, no warning is given before the form is reset

Next time you consider adding a reset button to a form, think it through very carefully first. Does the user really benefit from being able to reset the form? Is being able to reset the form to its initial state so valuable that it is worth the risk of the user losing the data they have entered? Probably not.

Further reading:

This post is a Quick Tip. Background info is available in Quick Tips for web developers and web designers.

Posted on September 1, 2009 in Quick Tips, Usability

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