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Inclusive language around buttons

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@Amy_Hupe recently posed a great question on Twitter regarding inclusive language for buttons:

What's an inclusive way to describe what you do to a (digital) button, given it might be pressed with a mouse click, a screen tap, a key on a keyboard, and so on? I've tended to use "select" but wondering if that's right?

There are a lot of good suggestions and my current feeling is that:

  1. it depends. What’s right for one context may not be for another; and
  2. there are a few good ones.

My favourites are:

  • use;
  • “click or tap”; and maybe
  • press (which may work as a common abstraction).

I also offerered this alternative/remix:

Could another way to do this / work around the awkwardness be via the pattern “Do thing X by using the Y button”? i.e. describe the action/result, making the button itself less important so you can just use “using” as your verb. So… “Submit the form using the “Submit” button”.

“via” is another word/pattern that’d similarly allow less need to worry about physical stuff. So “Launch a preview via the “Preview” button”. Same idea as “using”.

And I liked Craig Abbot’s observation:

it’s actually a bit weird to describe the physical interactions anyway. It should be intuitive. If a button says continue, it’s pretty obvious you need to interact with it. If you need to explain the UI usually there’s a bigger problem.

I’m not such a fan of these suggestions:

  • select; and
  • activate
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