The browser Back button is a fundamental navigation control that users are accustomed to using for web site navigation and for browser-based application navigation, such as booking, e-commerce, and social applications. The Forward button shares the same functions and its inclusion is implied.

Browser Back button support (3BS) doesn't come "for free" with single-page applications that rely upon Ajax calls to simulate page navigation. 3BS requires a UI design choice and specific implementation in this case.

Browser Back button support could prove cost prohibitive and detract from the user experience if implemented for every partial page rendering (PPR). Therefore, teams should carefully evaluate where this support is needed.

Back Button Navigation Candidates

It's necessary to identify PPRs within a single page application that should receive browser Back button support. Following is a list of the situations to consider.

Following is an illustration of navigation paths that could use browser Back button support.

Illustration of navigation candidates for browser back button support

Create Useful Browser History Entries

Implementing browser Back button support includes properly implementing a complementary browser history. Make browser history entries distinguishable from one another as much as possible; a browser history that lists identical entries is frustrating and ineffective. The following image is an example of entries that would leave users to adopt a "hunt and peck" strategy in attempts to navigate directly to a desired page.

Example of poor browser history choices

To provide the best user experience with browser history entries, create distinguishable history entries using the following format:


This short syntax relies on the temporal context to further distinguish visited pages, as well as on the longer URL provided by the browser history feature. The following image illustrates good browser history entries.

Example of Good Browser History Choices

Additional Resources