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Sameer Chavan <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 24 Mar 2006 15:24:23 +0530
text/plain (79 lines)
Summary below.

Our web applications are designed in such that its expected that user
will use browser back button to go to previous screens. So we don't
have any back button as such on application pages. But I have seen in
Usability tests, if there are some view only pages (no actions) and
the only option is to go back to previous pages, users do search for a
back button and do not use Browser Back button.
I want to know what is current trend in Web applications- Whether to
use browser back buttons, or to provide back buttons on applications
or provide back button only on view pages. I have seen propagation of
back button even in Outlook which is good.

Thanks for all the help.
I will summarize and send to the list.

Sameer Chavan
Oracle, Hyderabad, India.

It is my experience that users expect a web app to work like a desktop app.
That is to say if the web app includes action buttons for some tasks, then
the pages should contain buttons or links to return to a previous page.
That said, attention should be paid to task flow and site architecture to
minimize the user needing to use a Back button.  I use it regularly in
multiple step tasks that take place over multiple pages before the task is
completed.  As for elsewhere in the application, I try to provide primary
and secondary navigation links that make it easy for a user to return where
he or she started without having to use a Back button to navigate.

Claudia Case

Part of this may come from the fact that many web applications break
when you use the back button. Banking sites, for example, expire pages
in your history so that the back button takes you to a page that gives
an error. Going forward to "undo" the back navigation results in
another error (because the page you were just on expired when you hit
back). In some cases, the only option is to start over and log back in
again. The "right" way, some pages on these sites will tell you, is
"NEVER" to use the browser's back button and instead use the "back"
links they provide.

Perhaps experiences like this have turned some of the people you
observed off of the back button and as a result conditioned them to
search for the app's "approved" back/forward buttons.

I should make a correction to this comment: it's not the banking sites
that expire those pages in the history, but the browser. The point
still stands, however, that many web apps don't respond well to the
browser's back button and insist that you navigate back and forth
exclusively with the elements they provide.
- Nasir
In our usability lab, we always encourage development teams to
provide navigation buttons/links within their system to discourage
use of the browser navigation buttons.  In many web apps, use of the
back button results in loss of data or other undesirable side effects.

Also, providing appropriate navigation helps the user know what valid
options are available to them from the screen they are on.  They
don't have to guess or resort to the browser buttons.

Tara N. Bazler, Manager
User Experience Group
Indiana University

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