Opinion discussion: do you say the word “button” when narrating software simulations?

Hi. I hope this kind of discussion is OK to post here.

My development is 99% software simulations. Pretty basic “watch this workflow” type videos.

IMHO: saying the word button sounds outdated and it adds zero educational value.

Example: “Click the Home button, then click the Add button, enter your information in the required fields, then click the Save button. It is best practice to always sign off when you are done; click the Sign Out button.”

I change to: Click home, then Add. Complete the required fields and Save. It is best practice to always Sign Out when you are done.”

The Learner is literally watching the mouse move on-screen…saying button over and over just adds to the narration, insults the intelligence of your audience and create semantic satiation to drive you bonkers when you’ve said it 20 times in a video!

I am just the Developer so I don’t have a lot of juice to change content but I would love some ammo. Or change my mind. Whichever!




5 Replies
Ned Whiteley

Hi Katie,

I tend to agree that it can sound a bit dull and repetitive to keep using the word "button" all the time.

The funny thing is that the only button you are evet actually clicking is the mouse button and not the one on the screen. For that reason I will often use phrases such as "Enter a name for your file and select Save". In your example you could say "When you have finished, select Sign Out".

Hope this helps.

Carol North

Hi Katie,

Like Ned I have also moved away from saying 'click the button' especially since my courses are for Ipad too. I was doubling up saying  'click/tap' which is ridiculous really.

'Select..' is the way to go IMO

Another point is, if the 'button's are consistent throughout the course they will already know what to do after selecting them the first few times :) I tend to point it out if its not obvious and I don't want them to miss something.

Ray Cole

Katie, I think your approach is good. I always recommend referring to buttons by name only: "Click Next to continue." The only time I'd say "button" is if there are two items on the screen with the same name (e.g., if there's a Report button and a Report tab, then you'd have to use the "button"/"tab" identifier to clarify).

Ned, not to be too nitpicky, but I would standardize on "click" for normal buttons, so I would "click Save", not "Select Save"; and "click Sign Out", not select it.

EDIT: As I was typing the above, Carol weighed in with another recommendation for "select." Hmm. I usually reserve select for checkboxes and use click for everything else. But maybe that convention is changing?


Katie Saunders

Thank you all for taking the time to give me some input! That is so interesting about Click vs Select...I used this article to streamline language for my trainers so we all have the same "voice", but they are so resistant to abandon "click". 



You "choose" something from a menu, because you are "choosing" from a list of "choices," and once you "choose" the one you want, the chosen command is immediately executed.

You "select" something that, once you select it, stays selected. You select a cell in Excel.  You select a radio button, and you select a checkbox. And they stay selected. Until you "deselect" them.

You "press" a key on a keyboard or a real button on an actual piece of hardware. 

You "click" an on-screen button, an icon, or a tool.

Of course, it always comes down to what your organization/team/Designer decides to lock in so there really isn't a true right answer. And I like to keep the language casual...

In the end, it'll all move to eyeball tracking and we'll be saying "Look at Home, squint at Add, wink at Save, give a brief glance to Log out."


Ulises Musseb
Katie Saunders

IMHO: saying the word button sounds outdated and it adds zero educational value.

In my practice I use research and evidence-based practices, as well as analytics, to make design decisions.

  • Do you have any data that measures impact on using the word button versus not using the word button?
  • Do you think that the learning experience is so significantly impacted by the use of the word button that is at the point that it needs addressing and redesign?
  • Do you have any evidence that users disengage or abandon a course because they hear or see the word button in the slides or narration?
  • What does your needs assessment of the learners tell you in terms of their level of user interface literacy? That is, what level of guidance in using the interface they need?

Time and time again I hear this discussions on the use of certain words, interfaces, calls to actions or other design elements, based on things being "outdated", when what we should be asking is whether our learners actually need them, regardless of how many times we have to use them.

Just because we are using and designing things many times over, doesn't mean that our users don't need them anymore. Design should be learner-centered, not based on what we think/opine should be left out.

If your learners are returning people, people who already know what a button is, and you know that since they have taken many of your courses, then it makes sense to skip using that word. Otherwise, if you have new users all the time, and they might require that level of guidance because of a lower level of user interface literacy, then I can't see how the word button is "outdated", if they need it in order for the interface remaining means to an end, instead of another learning experience.