Still Life

A Series of Mental Snapshots

Web Usabilities Achilles Heel – The Back Button

Posted by Steve on September 12, 2008

Since the introduction of a lot of new web technologies including, (but of course not limited to) PHP and Javascript etc… the back button has never been the same. It used to be that when one pressed the back button it was expected, neh, certain that you would see the previous page that you were on; unfortunately this is no longer true! There are hoardes of issues that revovle around the back button, to follow is one example that I find terribly annoying.

Bestbuy.ca and Futureshop.ca Search
Like all web stores, best buy has a search option (and like most stores its pretty bad!). You arrive at the sight, and say you are looking to pick up an xbox 360, go ahead an enter that to the search bar. You come up with 368 hits, and you see a tree view:

Bestbuy Tree View

Bestbuy Tree View

You can then navigate down to the tree to finally find hardware:

Narrowed down selection

Narrowed down selection

Lets say you select the Pro Console, it takes you to the items page, and you see that it is sold out! So you press the back button to look at another console. This should take you back to the narrowed down selection… right? Not so much. It takes you back to the original search view, so you have to navigate through the tree again… GAH!

Have you had any interesting adventures with your back button, anything ever happen that you didnt expect? I may be adding to this myself the next time something strange happens!

–Steve

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2 Responses to “Web Usabilities Achilles Heel – The Back Button”

  1. Jens said

    Hi Steve

    Go to http://www.map24.com. Enter a city name so that you see a map. Zoom into the map, play a bit around, move the map to the left, move it to the right, wait a bit, etc. Then go to the history of the back button. The only thing you’ll find there will be links to map24. I assume, this happens because of the java applet’s updates. Why does it have to be like this though? I mean the rest of the page (like the input field with the city) remains the same and certainly does not update at all.

    BR, Jens

  2. Steve said

    Hi Jens,

    Nice one, if you look around, you’ll find TONS of examples of how pages handle the back button poorly!

    –Steve

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