What is a button?

Ok, so there’s this guy who says that a button has to protrude and can’t be flat. Does anyone know what a Playstation 3 is? Well there are two (what I consider “buttons”) on the actual system itself. They are an eject button and a power on button. They are flat, but if you press it the PS3 turns on or ejects a CD. He argued that those aren’t buttons. I looked up the definition and one of the definitions said that a button can be flat. So are those on the Playstation 3 considered buttons?

Surely, when he told you that a button has to protrude, you asked him “What do you call something that looks like a button and acts like a button but doesn’t protrude?”

You didn’t ask him that? Why not?

buttons can be flush, recessed, ringed and covered.

I would agree that the touch-sensitive areas on a flat user interface device (like a membrane switch) aren’t buttons

When membrane switch keyboards were created, some of the individual keys were called ‘buttons’.
In a GUI design, you can create ‘flat’ buttons.

Perhaps the OP wishes there to be another term.
How does “touch activated switch” work for you?

I’m really wondering what kind of person would put up a fight on this subject. And I’m the kind of person who will argue about almost anything too.

lol, ridiculous. So I guess the thing that the words OK and Cancel are inside of in umpteen billion windows aren’t buttons because they don’t physically protrude out of your monitor?

“Click the cancel button! Now click the OK button…” etc.

Or how about the close, minimize, and restore buttons?

I don’t think this is a fair criticism.
There are UI elements called “buttons,” but that doesn’t mean that every surface that is touch-sensitive is a button. For example.

Just curious, what did the guy call the things he said weren’t buttons?

Based on my own internal vocabulary, I would posit that there is a distinction between an actual, literal button, which is a functional thing you press to cause something to happen and can look like anything, and a thing that’s described as button-like or metaphorically called a button, which would suggest something small, rounded, and raised.

Well, every single object in your computer UI is a… metaphor, I guess? The buttons aren’t real buttons, the desktop isn’t a real desktop, the folders aren’t real folder. They’re abstract representations of real things. In the case of buttons, they’re often textured to look like they’re raised or rounded. So I don’t think those really apply to the discussion.

Now, the thing on my PS3 requires me to apply force, so I would call it a flush button, like johnpost said.

On the other hand, the power button on my xBox doesn’t require any pressure. All I have to do is brush my finger over it very lightly and the machine will turn on. I’d never thought about it before, but I think I wouldn’t actually call it a button. I guess “touch-activated switch” works as well as anything, but I wonder if there’s already a better word.

If you press it like you’re pressing a button, then it’s a button. Some things are defined by their function more than their attributes.

My WAG is your friend had a outie and may be a bit resentful of it.
(Belly button reference)

A button is something you press to make something happen. It doesn’t matter how it’s shaped, just that you can look at it and see that it’s something you press (the touch-sensitive lamp example is not a button). It’s 2012, fer cryin’ out loud. A button can take a lot of forms.

A button is a thingy that you push. If you can push it, it’s a button.

The End.

Additionally they can have two holes or four holes or some kind of a loop on the back. There’s a reset button, an on button, an off button, a panic button, button-down, button-up, button-hook. Leather buttons, coconut buttos, mother of pearl buttons. Button nose, cute as a button… that’s about it.

I’m not buying the “well anything on a computer doesn’t really count” argument. They are textured/made to look like buttons, but you “press” them with a mouse like you would a real button.

Hmmmmm… doesn’t this sound EXACTLY LIKE THE EXAMPLE IN THE OP, except on a physical device instead of on a UI? There is a thing that you press, that doesn’t REALLY press in, and you make it do something by pressing it, and they design it to look like a button.

A physical, mechanical button works on a different scientific principle than a capacitance-style button, but it’s two different means to the same end. They are all a type of button.

Patent/design application drafters.

Here’s what one such person wrote:

“A touch contact switch has a sensor key or button with a spatially extended, electrically conductive foam or flexible plastic or rubber body. The switch is operated by contact or approach. The sensor button essentially forms one pole of a capacitor and is electrically connected to an evaluating circuit of the touch contact switch, wherein switching is initiated as a result of a capacitance change in consequence of approach or contact. The sensor button can be bonded directly on a mounting plate of the associated electrical evaluating circuit or can be engaged by a pin or the like. The body can be flush to the underside of a cover, which forms or contains the contact surface. The body can include an opening along the longitudinal axis in which is insertable a LED.”

I agree. It might be more precise in technical terms to call something a touch sensor or touch actuator, but if you press (or touch) it to make something happen, it’s not wrong to call it a button.

A pedantic dillhole.

No, wait…that’s something else in this conversation.