Does your site contain any "Nuke" buttons?

In the movie Monsters vs. Aliens, the President has two huge red buttons.

The one on the left launches every nuclear weapon in the country; the one on the right makes a latte.

The President asks, “Who designed this ridiculous system?”

His colleagues reply, “You did.”

Throughout the movie, he keeps almost pressing the wrong button, by accident. Whenever he leans towards it, everyone screams hysterically.

Now, if you have ever carried out a usability test, you’ll know this feeling well. You’ll regularly find yourself screaming, “No!” (though you have to do so internally) when the participant is about to make a “conversion-killing” mistake. Some website elements are effectively “Nuke” buttons. In other words, they are traps that reduce the likelihood of conversion.

Does your own website contain any “Nuke” buttons?

Here’s how to find out if you’re making the same mistake as the President did: Look at one of your mission-critical webpages—such as your homepage or one of your landing pages—and then look at each link and button, one at a time, and answer the following two questions:

Question 1: “If visitors click on this button, what will they see next?” (Open the link in a separate tab, just to check.)

Question 2: “Will clicking on this increase—or decrease—the likelihood of visitors taking the action we want them to take?”

You may be surprised by what you discover.

Types of “Nuke” buttons

Here are some of the most common types of “Nuke” buttons:

“Nuke” Button Type 1: the “Empty Cart” button. The internet is riddled with shopping carts that have “Empty Cart” buttons in them. Can you imagine a supermarket in which half of the checkouts are traps where a member of the staff would grab your shopping cart and put all the items back on the shelves? An “Empty Cart” feature would never exist in the offline world.

But, online, they are commonplace. Here’s an example of one:

Notice how this “Empty Cart” button is identical in appearance to the “Place Order” button. It’s even located on the right-hand side, where you might imagine the “Place Order” button to be. One false click and the order is nuked.

“Nuke” Button Type 2: the “Reset Form” button. Strangely, it’s hard to even imagine a scenario in which a “Reset Form” button would ever be needed. It’s not as if you’d ever fill out your name and address, and then think, “No, wait, that’s not me!” Perhaps “Reset Form” buttons are designed to safeguard people who are in witness protection programs.

Here’s an example of a “Reset Form” button, waiting to catch its next victim.

“Nuke” Button Type 3: the “Too-Easy-To-Click-Accidentally” button. Hotmail’s “Sign Out” button is tiny and sits beneath a much larger “Nuke” button that jeopardizes the user experience. In the image below, you might expect that the arrow is hovering over the “Sign Out” button.

In fact, when clicked, it opens up a drop-down box for the much larger “Karl” button, which is immediately above the “Sign Out” button.

As a result, it’s surprisingly difficult to work out how to sign out of Hotmail, or to change users.

This usability error isn’t trivial. Many Hotmail users access their email from public computers. Failing to sign out could result in identity theft.

“Nuke” Button Type 4: the “Your Session Has Expired” feature. Some shopping carts spontaneously destroy the visitor’s data after a certain time period. Why?

Clearly, in some situations, it makes sense to expire a session after a certain period of inactivity, for security reasons. But in those cases, it’s essential that the session be automatically saved for next time; otherwise, the visitor’s hard work is destroyed.

The “Your Session Has Expired” nuke isn’t a button at all, but it has the same self-destruct power of any “Nuke” button. It’s really a “time bomb” version of the “Reset Form” or “Empty Cart” “Nuke” buttons.

In a way, it’s more destructive, because it doesn’t even require a click; it can be triggered by a bathroom break.

“Nuke” Button Type 5: the Irrelevant Link. This one is perhaps the most common of all. It sounds obvious, but a link shouldn’t be on a page unless you want at least some of the visitors to click on it. Many links cause visitors to veer off to an obscure part of the website—or to another website—never to return.

An obvious example of an irrelevant link is found on websites that have banner ads on their shopping cart pages. If customers are about to place an order, do you really want them to see a distracting banner ad like this?

Keep an eye out for “Nuke” buttons

“Nuke” buttons are easy to overlook. Try to identify them in your own site, then remove them before they destroy more conversions.

Together, we can disarm the web.

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