Descriptive buttons

Labeling buttons properly let's users know what will happen when they activate the control, lessens errors, and increases confidence.


In order for a button’s purpose to be clear to all users, it must have a meaningful name.

What is a meaningful name?

A meaningful name describes the button’s purpose: the action that occurs when the button is activated (for example: removing a list item), and the action’s associated context (for example: the specific item to be removed). To avoid unnecessary verbosity, button names should be as succinct as possible while still being descriptive and unique.

Refer to Identifying GitHub comments below for an example of a succinct, unique name. To explore how meaningful names can be set in code, refer to the examples below.

Why is a meaningful name necessary?

Clear and consistent labels set user expectations for button actions, giving users confidence that activating a button will have the outcome they expect.

Screen readers (for example: VoiceOver) provide overlays to enable users to jump to specific types of elements, including buttons. Elements are listed by their names. When buttons don’t have meaningful names, it’s not possible to determine which action will be performed when selecting them from the list.

How to test names

When reviewing buttons on a page, ensure the following are true:


For designers

  • When including an unlabeled, icon-only button in a design, recommend an accessible name.
  • When including multiple buttons that peform the same function in a design, use the same label for each.

For engineers

  • When a button doesn’t have a visible label (for example: an IconButton), provide an accessible name. Refer to ARIA 14: Using aria-label to provide an invisible label where a visible label cannot be used.
  • Because aria-label doesn’t supplement visible labels but rather supplants them, when a button has a visible label, include that label in its accessible name. A good practice is to have the text of the label at the start of the name.
  • Don’t use aria-label when its content would be identical to a button’s visible label.
  • Don’t reuse the same (visible) label or (invisible) name for buttons which perform different actions.


<button type="button">OK</button>

The button does not have a redundant `aria-label` attribute.

<button type="button" aria-label="OK">OK</button>

The button has a redundant and unnecessary `aria-label` attribute.

<button type="button" aria-label="smockle’s profile"><img alt="smockle" src=""></button>

The button should have an accessible name.

<button type="button"><img src=""></button>

The button should not be missing a name.

Meaningful and unique names

Each button in the example below has a unique name which describes its action (“Remove”) and its action’s context (for example: “'Apples'”).

function removeItem(event) {
const item ="li");
<li>Apples <button onclick="removeItem(event)" aria-label="Remove 'Apples'" type="button">❌</button></li>
<li>Bananas <button onclick="removeItem(event)" aria-label="Remove 'Bananas'" type="button">❌</button></li>
<li>Cantaloupes <button onclick="removeItem(event)" aria-label="Remove 'Cantaloupes'" type="button">❌</button></li>

Although each button in the example below performs a different action, they all have the same name: ❌ (“cross mark”). This name does not describe the action that occurs when a given button is activated, nor does it describe the action’s context.

function removeItem(event) {
const item ="li");
<li>Apples <button onclick="removeItem(event)" type="button">❌</button></li>
<li>Bananas <button onclick="removeItem(event)" type="button">❌</button></li>
<li>Cantaloupes <button onclick="removeItem(event)" type="button">❌</button></li>

Additional resources

Terminology: “label” vs “name”

When you review the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) below, you’ll encounter the terms “label” and “name”. Here are the definitions given for each:

  • label:

    text or other component with a text alternative that is presented to a user to identify a component within Web content

  • name:

    text by which software can identify a component within Web content to the user (Note: This is unrelated to the name attribute in HTML.)

The name may be hidden and only exposed by assistive technology, whereas a label is presented to all users. In many (but not all) cases, the label and the name are the same.

Identifying GitHub comments

When a button is associated with a specific comment, a comment indentifier should be included within the button’s name. reaction_target_identifier (only accessible to GitHub staff) uses aria-label-date (only accessible to GitHub staff) to generate a concise, unique comment identifier.

For example, reaction_target_identifier could be used in a reply-to-comment button’s name. In all cases, reaction_target_identifier adds the comment’s author and timestamp; conditionally, as needed, reaction_target_identifier adds progressively-verbose date information:

  • Reply to benjiallen, 2:45PM today
  • Reply to benjiallen, 2:45PM yesterday
  • Reply to benjiallen, 2:45PM on November 19
  • Reply to benjiallen, 2:45PM on November 19, 2021