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User Experience Toolkit

Clear Button Anti-Pattern

One of the oldest and most common web form elements is the button to clear or reset. While this clear function button may seem novel, it can be a frustration point to users.

What Problem Does this Solve?

Many times, users click the clear button by accident, causing them to lose the data they have entered into the form; this is especially frustrating when the form is a complex form with many fields requiring information from the user. For most cases of web forms, the likelihood of a user needing to completely reset their entire form is low.

When to Use this Pattern

Clear buttons should not used unless it is highly likely that a user would have the need to completely remove the form contents. For most single use forms, it is not recommended.

Why Not to Use this Pattern

  • They clutter up interfaces with additional functionality that is normally unwanted or unnecessary.
  • When accidentally clicked, they remove all of a users work without prompting a user to confirm this action or provide a means to recover lost data.
  • When present, additional decisions are required by the user - complexity increases.

Special Cases for Use

The form is designed as a reusable form.
A single user is intended to repeatedly perform routine data entry on the same screen without leaving/refreshing and may need to change the input values.
A series of similar field types where the user would benefit from batch selection/deselection.
For instance, a series of checkboxes where "select all" and "deselect all" functionality would be beneficial.
A series of forms contain significant number of same/similar inputs and there is likelihood of a data-entry mistake
Consider a highly used data entry form where the user enters a large number of similar form fields: First/Last Name, Address, City, State, Zip code, etc. They may easily make a high level mistake of mis-entering a large block of information and could benefit from the ability to clear the input of a section or the entire form.

Further Reading

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