A Better Back

Problems with the Back button, possible solutions and a concrete proposal for the Web browser.

Relevant Art

(TODO) Examples from iOS, Android, Firefox, etc.


A Back button that does not show its target imposes a cognitive load on the user and makes the system more unpredictable.

Simply displaying an arrow or the word "Back" requires that the user keeps the previous pages on his working memory. Some systems get around this by using a tooltip, which can only convey a little information at a time, is slow to use and can not be used with one's fingers.

Even worse, if the user has forgotten the contents of the page stack, it makes it impossible to guess the outcome of pressing the Back button. This latter case is not as uncommon as it would seem, specially when we think not of the immediately previous page but the ones before it.


GNOME already uses informative Back buttons in many places but the Web browser is not one of them.

These are a couple of sketches for Back and Forward buttons which provide the user with more information about where they would take him. The main idea is to display a portion of the page's title to aid recognition; the favicon might be a good addition, specially as it signals the transition from one web domain to another.

On mouse-over, the Back and Forward buttons would display a tooltip-like window with a thumbnail of the target page. This would be a transient element that is purely informative and not to be interacted with; the main goal of this is to avoid accidentally covering the web content with elements that can be clicked accidentally or that get in the way.




This sounds like a great concept, and I'd love to see it in Web, Nautilus, Documents, and any other GNOME apps that deal with navigation. --UnsolvedCypher

Design/Whiteboards/Back (last edited 2013-05-03 21:37:05 by UnsolvedCypher)