Don’t Get Your Design’s Stuck on Language

e-commerce site
e-commerce site
demo e-commerce site

I’ve been designing lots of e-commerce projects lately and a theme I’ve been finding in the designs is the buttons. Specifically the implication of buttons.

We’ve all seen buttons on store that say “Add to Cart” or “Purchase” or whatever but does the simple word convey enough meaning?

The Thoughts

I am more and more of the mind that buttons with text on them don’t convey quite enough. Language doesn’t transcend cultures really. Sure lots of the world that is online would read English but why put that barrier in front of potential customers? I look at other UI elements from web browsers and applications and they provide more information than simple text.

Look at the back button on your web browser. No text is really needed to know that pressing the button will move you back in your browsing history. Same goes for the stop button and the home button. They stand alone without the text. Whey then do so many websites require descriptive text on the GUI elements?

The Simple Solution

Lately with my buttons on sites I’ve been working really hard to have a single symbol along with the button text to convey what is happening when a person clicks on a button. Submit buttons have typically been getting ‘>’ on them as well. I feel submit implies a forward type of motion though ‘+’ would also create the feeling of addition.

Buttons for purchasing products have been getting the + symbol along with the “Purchase” text. When you click it you are adding something. Similarly the “Remove” buttons have been getting the – symbol along with the text.

I’m simply trying to convey more from a usability standpoint. I want to make it easy on users with reading difficulties, or that don’t have a native language of English, by having a stand alone symbol to represent the action.

Am I alone here? What else can we do visually to make site more accessible across language barriers? How do you address these issues?

Take your Website to the Dentist

This post was inspired by my recent dentist visit and the start of my silver grill as stated if you follow me on twitter. Having a long term website is a lot of work. You have to update the content, keep the Content Management System up to date so it’s not vulnerable to attack and make sure you check the logs for errors. All of that stuff seems kind of like going to the doctor to me, at least the general practitioner.

On some sort of regular basis you should take your site to the dentist though. In this instance I would equate the dentist with an outside consultant hired for a site evaluation.

As you continue to work with the same content it becomes harder to bring fresh eyes to the site. It’s harder to see the problems on a site because there is a reason, at least as far as your concerned, that it is laid out that way. In many ways having the same people always looking at the site to evaluate it is kind of like everyone patting each other’s back to tell them how good a job they are doing.

Back to the teeth comparison. I have always thought my teeth were healthy. They’re straight, and clean and don’t hurt. Then I went to the dentist and my teeth that looked good to me ended up being in need of a overhaul. It took a specialist to look at my teeth and see the bad parts. It takes a specialist to fix the problems.

There are problems on any long term site. New information gets added to the site that wasn’t originally planned for. The site become a little inbred and has poor elements scattered throughout. It’s hard to notice this when you work with it everyday though.


Like going to a doctor that specializes in teeth your website will benefit from getting specialists to do a site evaluation on a regular basis. Maybe with the new wave of social media you decide that you should be more open to your users so you hire a social media consultant to give that aspect of your marketing an overhaul.

If your users indicate that it’s hard to find things on your site you should hire a user interface specialist or accessibility specialist to do a site audit. They can help you become more user friendly thus increasing the interaction on your site.

Git er Done

It’s all well and good to hire these specialists and get the recommendations from them but it does you no good to do nothing with the recommendations. Just as it would have done me no good to go for a check up and then not go back to face the drill. It may be painful, we are invested in our work, and it may cost a fair chunk of change but the important thing is that at the end of the day we have a healthy site that serves our users better.