Jason Kim's Blog

Try Not To Break The Back Button

I come across websites that break the Back button too often for bad reasons. Back button is one of the longest living orthodoxies in web people take for granted, and rightly so.


Back button is useful. It serves its purpose for navigation so perfectly that there's been little to no change done it for decades. Phones subsequently adopted it without modifying what it does that much. Back button remains useful in mobile browser even more so because other kinds of precise actions require so much more effort to pull off. Most users resort to the back button for most of rudimentary navigations.

Back button gets broken with using window.location which will redirect the page to the address that window.location set to.

Anatomy of Broke Back Button


  1. User is on page A.
  2. User clicks on a link and goes to B.
  3. B has window.location set to page C.
  4. User is finished with the page C, and wants to return to A.
  5. User clicks back.
  6. User is back to B, and is immediately redirected to C again.

There are some ways to mitigate the problem.

  • Use redirect with countdown so that the user can get a chance to click back button again, while the countdown happens.
  • If the redirect is to a mobile site for mobile users, try building adaptive or responsive site that doesn't require rediecting the user to a new site
  • Use a gentle call to action that prompts user to the mobile, instead of a silent redirect.

Not breaking the default behaviour of the back button is a general rule of thumb. I am sure there are times, when you must end up breaking the back button for a bigger gain. :)