Using instructional text to compensate for missing buttons


I recently saw a blog interface where certain buttons had been removed to make things look simpler. For example, when choosing the categories for a post, there are no buttons for Save or Cancel. You just click anywhere else on the blogging screen and the changes are saved. I was a little bit confused at first, but then I got the hang of it.

Is this type of minimalist design a good idea? That’s a topic for another article. But if you decide to strip out a common convention from your design, it helps to provide some instructional text to guide your users. Returning to my original example, the category editor could have some subtle text that says “When you’re done, click anywhere outside this box.”

Worried about the help text cluttering your otherwise minimalist layout? In that case, only make the text appear if the user has been idle on that screen for several seconds. That way, novice users will receive the help they need, while expert users get to enjoy the streamlined layout that you set out to build in the first place.