The Labelless Button

Google recently removed the plus label on Chrome’s “new tab” button, which sparked a fair bit of criticism on their product forums. I don’t really like or dislike the change, but I think it’s great that Google is not afraid to experiment, especially with less conservative UI ideas. Here’s what the new labelless button looks like:

Chrome's labelless new tab button

Is this the first case of a labelless button in software? You can probably find some buttons on hardware without any labels (e.g. the buttons on a mouse), but I can’t recall any examples of this in software. Even the traffic lights on Mac OS X windows show their little symbols when you hover over them. Here though what we have is an empty shell that uses its skewed outline and placement rather than an inner label to communicate its purpose.

[Edit 15 Mar] Internet Explorer had an empty tab for a while now as its “new tab” button. Technically it’s a tab rather than a button, but it’s very similar to what Google now has. I think if they went even further and turned the empty button into a tab it would make its function even more obvious. Here’s a mockup of what that could look like:

Chrome's labelless new tab button turned into a tab