As with all things ‘usability’,

the Clue is in the Context

… and the Intention is Clarity.

First of all, “What do you mean by ‘next’?” No, I’m not just word-smithing.

Here are a few variations on our theme:

  • ‘Next’ in a sequence-that-has-some-organization (option-to-skip)
  • ‘Next’ in an unorganized group (random/shot-in-the-dark)
  • ‘Next’ in the sense of ‘more-like-this’ (similar things)
  • ‘Next’ in the sense of ‘more-detail-on-this’ (drilldown)
  • ‘Next’ in the sense of ‘steps-in-a-process’ (1–2–3)
  • ‘Next’ in the sense of ‘self-regulated-presentation’ (slideshow)

Yes, Yes – Of course there’s a bunch of overlap here, as well. But I think you get my point: There is no perfect one-size-fits-all icon

As per usual, usability colleague Ivan Burmistrov provides the most concise punchline:

‘Textual button “Next page” will always work better than an icon.’ 

There’s some real truth for you. Dilemma: As usability designers, we’re always trying to simplify and un-busy what appears on the screen… (i.e. less text/more pics)

Look over the list above (there are probably other options, too).

  1. Pick the ‘next’ that’s most appropriate to what you wish to communicate.
  2. Select a concise textual cue which expresses your intent
  3. Design a visual/graphical image which reflects your call-to-action (It will often be expressed as some form of arrow)
  4. Combine those two visual elements in a way that works within the whole context (After all, that’s why we hired you. If really pressed for screenspace, I’ll often present an on-screen icon – and have the textual explanation appear onHover)

Here’s a coupla thoughts from my own resume website:

This article is extracted from my answer to a question on Quora:  “How would you design the ideal “next page button” if the button was just an icon?

© The Communication Studio LLC