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I really want to know so I can stop using them if it is stopping people from filling out forms. Anyone have any input on this?
As always, however, your mileage may vary, and much will depend on the type of site, the type of form, and the type of audience. If the forms are being submitted, say, by repeat visitors to a consistently designed message board, images can be appropriate. But if you're designing a support request form for one department of a very large company with many different websites, generic is best.
On the other hand, the standard buttons may look garish within the setting of your design scheme. I downloaded a guestbook program for a client and decided to make gifs for the "Click to sign" and "Home" buttons, so that it would match the rest of the site.
Perhaps it comes down to labeling your buttons in the most explicit manner possible, to idiot proof them.
If you can get away without the gifs, then do it. But I alway seem to end up rolling my own...
I think for shopping carts, having buttons that are a little more explicit than the norm... like a shopping cart with an arrow pointed into the basket for "Add to Cart", etc., (or at the very least, having buttons say something more explicit than "Submit") can actually help internet novices who may not realize a "Submit" button means both "Put this in my shopping cart" and "Check Out Now," etc.
So if the form consist of something important like a e-commerce form, where money and credit card are involved, then use the standard buttons. If it's just a cool subscription to receive e-mail then try to design something simple and nice using gifs, or css.
One thing that I do is to create the button using photoshop or fireworks, and then see if I can do the same thing using css. If it works then css is the key.
The grey ones are very boring and for some reason I have also found myself strangely repelled by radio buttons lately.
Greys will probably always cause the least problems (people will always know to click on those - for the same reason that it's important to always underline your links, and have them a different color from other text - so people know to use them), but having CSS enhanced buttons are always nicer looking, and something I often do myself.
For those of you who are asking "CSS"? What's that? Go here:
I also make sure that the buttons are consistent from page to page, not only in look & size but in placement on the page, as well.
I've never experienced problems and it hasn't come up as an issue in any of my usability tests. The things that do come up as usability issues boggle the mind, but that's another discussion entirely!
I have no problems with the usabilty of buttons as long as they stand out loud and clear as buttons, are consistant throughout the site, and are clearly marked...