Go Back One Step

Examples: Context:  The artifact allows a user to move through spaces (as in Navigable Spaces), or steps (as in Step-by-Step Instructions), or a linear Narrative, or discrete states.

Problem:  How can the artifact  make navigation easy, convenient, and psychologically safe for the user?


Solution:  Provide a way to step backwards to the previous space or state.  If possible, let the user step backwards multiple times in a row, thus allowing them to backtrack as far as they want.

Resulting Context:  Having a "back" function implies having a "forward" function; it's more of a convenience than a distinct pattern, but Web browsers have set up this expectation, so your users may be unpleasantly surprised if it's not there.  Also, Go Back to a Safe Place is a logical pattern to use in addition to this one.

If the user knows they can step backwards multiple times, they may then expect that they can see the history through which they are backtracking -- in other words, their Interaction History.

Notes:  A 1994 paper on the usage of Web browsers discovered that on average, the use of the "Back"  button accounted for 40% of a user's actions.  This was second only to following an actual link, which made up 52%. (In contrast, the "Forward" button only accounted for 2%.)  Reference:  "Characterizing Browsing Strategies in the World-Wide Web," by Lara D. Catledge and James E. Pitkow.

Comments to:  jtidwell@alum.mit.edu
Last modified May 17, 1999

Copyright (c) 1999 by Jenifer Tidwell.  All rights reserved.