Best Practices: Play, Pause, Stop etc.

2 Feb 2011 - 4:24pm
5 years ago
7 replies
2221 reads


I'm having trouble finding discussions about transport controls. how do people feel about Play changing to Pause or Stop instead of using separate buttons?

  • Do Pause and Stop have universally understood meanings?
  • What is the difference between them?
  • What do people prefer regarding Rewind and Fast Forward -- when should they jump to the next unit, marker, or section instead of shuttling?



17 Feb 2011 - 12:48am


Do Pause and Stop have universally understood meanings? I would tend to say yes... at least my father who is 75 yrs old has learnt and can identify the symbols and understands that when Pause is used he can restart playback from the paused point and Stop will take him back to the browsing screen (we have a Philips HDD Recorder which can record TV programs)

Thus based on the situation I would prefer to have the Play and Pause as a single button and Stop as a separate button. The reason being - only during playback can one pause it, however stop can be done during playback as well as when the system is paused.

Thus Pause would keep the playback cursor at the current position, however Stop would move the playback cursor to the start position.

There are lots of media players which have a single Play & Pause button and a different Stop button. However Winamp which has been in the market for a very long time (possibly more than a decade) still has separate play, pause and stop buttons. During playback when the play button is clicked it starts playback from the beginning of the song. I.e. it behaves like a stop + play.

To summarize I would say it depends on the context of use... I hope this helps...

Btw why do you call them Transport controls?

17 Feb 2011 - 12:57pm

Thanks for the input! Transport controls? Hmm, not sure. Maybe it's something i picked up using audio equipment. Never thought about it, but that might be a term that isn't used outside pro audio?

19 Feb 2011 - 2:10am
Adam Korman

For the most part, people do understand toggling between play and pause. This kind of behavior (a button with a label that toggles) can be tricky because it often leads to confusion (is the label indicating the current state or the action that it will perform?). But, in this case it works because (a) you have other, more striking indications of the state -- you can see and/or hear if the media is playing -- and (b) the play/pause convention is used all over the place.

The difference between stop and pause is not so straightforward. Generally, having a separate control for stop adds confusion. First, while pause is generally understood to mean "interrupt playback and keep track of where I am," the meaning of stop is not consistent. Sometimes it has that same meaning as pause, but sometimes it means "stop playing and don't keep track of where I was." The reasons for this are largely related to the history of how physical media and playback devices work (think about the mechanics of pause and stop for a cassette vs a CD vs a digital file). Unfortunately, this has only gotten worse over time as consumer electronics companies have overloaded the function of the stop button, especially with universal remotes and hybrid devices (like the stop button on my PS3 remote, which always seems to have mysterious behavior).

So, if you can, I would say just say no to stop, unless:

  • the context really warrants it (for example, you are controlling physical media and there are real advantages to having separate actions) or
  • for whatever reason you cannot do the behavior of "pause" (and resume playback where you left off) -- in this case, toggle between play and stop (for example, live streaming broadcasts).
Regards, Adam


25 Feb 2011 - 12:11am

thanks for the input folks--confirms my thoughts

19 Feb 2011 - 3:06pm
Phillip Hunter

The term "transport controls" is from the use of tape players. The tape is transported from one reel to the next

20 Feb 2011 - 9:09pm

Thanks Phillip :)  thats quite interesting... figuratively speaking the term transport controls would also apply to the music the tape players used to play... to literally transport to another world :)

24 Feb 2011 - 1:47am

thanks a bunch for the comments. confirms my thoughts, and very helpful.

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