What are the kind of push buttons used on modern appliances called:

  • Lies flush with the surface.
  • Have to press (not tap) to activate.
  • Button usually doesn't move much or at all when you press it.
  • Usually seamless or a slight seam with the surface.
  • Often the same material over the whole surface, including buttons.
  • Often seen on surfaces that need to be cleaned frequently or water/splash proof... Stove, washer/dryer, point of sale terminals, and most recently a new printer.

Originally I was writing a review and wanted to complain that the _____ type of buttons were hard to use, not like normal buttons. But now I just want to know since it seems like these are showing up everywhere.

  • 3
    I suggest you try this on Engineering.
    – Phil Sweet
    Jun 24, 2018 at 14:18
  • Probably control panel: amazon.com/Whirlpool-W10211459-Control-Panel-Microwave/dp/…
    – Bread
    Jun 24, 2018 at 14:31
  • 1
    @Bread , no, OP wants the specific type, ie dimple panel, tactile control assembly, etc. There are quite a number of terms for them.
    – Phil Sweet
    Jun 24, 2018 at 14:35
  • @Phil Sweet ~ we ordinary consumers just call them control panels, and leave it at that.
    – Bread
    Jun 24, 2018 at 14:39
  • 1
    @Bread and you probably call a repairman in to fix them, because he knows what to call the broken part, and therefore can order a new one. This is why I suggested Engineering.SE.
    – Phil Sweet
    Jun 24, 2018 at 14:44

6 Answers 6


Membrane switch, where one contact of the switch assembly is embedded in a flexible substrate.

  • Technically, your normal (desktop or laptop) keyboard is very likely also of membrane type internally, but for the OP's phrase it's probably the best word.
    – Zeus
    Jun 25, 2018 at 6:07
  • 1
    'Membrane panel' would describes the panel, rather than the switch mechanism. You can have mechanical switches behind a membrane panel (most often seen on heavy industrial equipment), or membrane switches behind separate button caps (e.g. a calculator keyboard with hard plastic buttons will probably be a tactile membrane switch). Jun 25, 2018 at 14:20
  • This would be a better answer if you quoted relevant parts of the Wikipedia entry you linked to, and maybe include an illustration or two.  Also, you should say that you’re citing Wikipedia. Jun 26, 2018 at 1:39

Touch pad:

If the touch pads on your microwave oven do not respond but the display lights up, the problem is most likely with the membrane switch. This component, which is more commonly referred to as the touch pad, is actually a series of soft touch electrical switches.

I had originally thought of this as a "touch panel" and Googled that (along with "microwave"). But I then noticed that many of the repair sites referred to it as a "touch pad" (or "touchpad," without the space) instead.

Here, also, is what Merriam-Webster says about touch pad:

a keypad for an electronic device (such as a microwave oven) that consists of a flat surface divided into several differently marked areas which are touched to choose options

  • 2
    Ever since capacitive touch went mainstream in 2007, I've felt like the word "touch" on a user interface implies there is no need to press, and therefore a "touch pad" is distinctly different from a membrane switch/pad/keyboard because you do have to press on a membrane to activate it, but a touch interface can merely be touched. Jun 25, 2018 at 19:29
  • 2
    One of the OP's conditions was that one has to press (not tap) the 'buttons' to activate them. Wouldn't the term touch pad include the displays with virtual buttons that one merely taps?
    – jsw29
    Jun 25, 2018 at 20:16
  • Whether you "tap" or "press," your finger still has to contact the surface in some way. So, while "touch" may be too general a term, it's the term that was coined. (Nobody came up with "press pad" versus "tap pad.") Jun 25, 2018 at 23:05

“Touch-sensitive buttons” as sold here: https://gblockingsystems.co.uk/locking-systems/touch-sensitive-buttons/

GB Locking Systems range of high quality touch sensitive exit / entry buttons. An ideal replacement for conventional push buttons, door release buttons, call switches, etc. Ideal for the elderly and disabled – no pressure required operates with the lightest of touches.

If it’s a switch then it’s a “touch switch”:

A touch switch is a type of switch that only has to be touched by an object to operate. It is used in many lamps and wall switches that have a metal exterior as well as on public computer terminals.


  • But do touch switches fulfil the "press, not tap" requirement? Jun 26, 2018 at 6:46

They are called buttons. I am not being facetious.

  • 2
    This doesn't help if you are trying to buy a replacement for your microwave or diswasher.
    – Phil Sweet
    Jun 24, 2018 at 14:40
  • 1
    @Phil Sweet ~ the question didn't mention anything about buying parts. Personally, I call them either one: buttons (a throwback term which I still use out of a sense of nostalgia) -- or when feeling more modern: control panels. "Let's see now, I need to go over to the control panel on my machine and hit the on button."
    – Bread
    Jun 24, 2018 at 14:46
  • 1
    @PhilSweet, you don't really buy a replacement "button," mostly because they're not a single component from an electronics perspective. It's still the correct term of art for the aggregate. This particular kind of button is a non-tactile button (which I put in an answer as well), but it's a button all the same!
    – Alex H.
    Jun 25, 2018 at 17:04
  • 1
    A control panel might contain several buttons. A single button is not a control panel.
    – The Photon
    Jun 25, 2018 at 20:14

That's a "non-tactile button", illustrated below.

Tactile vs non-tactile button


They are known as "haptic" buttons

The buttons are actually pressable, while haptic feedback completes the experience.

haptic - definition and synonyms

  • 18
    No. 'Haptic' devices relay sensory feedback (like a vibration) to the person operating them. Jun 24, 2018 at 23:14

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