Our website gives users the ability to download data but this data can't be downloaded to a mobile device. For the mobile viewport widths of our site I'm considering these options:

1) Remove the download button entirely or disable it.

Assumption: a user might think the feature has been removed or that they somehow lost access to it.

2) Inform the user to login from a laptop or desktop computer to download data.

Assumption: User might get frustrated that a button doesn't lead to the promised functionality.

  • 3) Allow downloads ? mobile browsers can still request a desktop version, and download to cloud storage,open pdf's spreadsheets etc,etc.
    – Keno
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 23:55
  • It's data DAE and SKP data for use in 3D modeling programs so unfortunately there's no real use case for downloading the raw data to a mobile device. Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 21:53
  • @TravisGohr: Is this the real/only reason for not allowing the download from mobile devices? -- As long as you communicate what exactly gets downloaded, the mobile users could decide for themselves if they have a use case -- for example, downloading it now and transferring it later to their (possibly offline) computer that can make use of the data. -- Unless you have additional reasons for not allowing the download, it sounds like you are not helping the mobile users by disallowing it.
    – unor
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 13:03

5 Answers 5


It completely depends on the data you are serving to users. Let's suppose you're offering them to download simple PDFs/Word Docs/Spreadsheets – then the user should be allowed to download that data, as per emerging UI Trends- all the applications are being designed and developed with Mobile-First view, so that not too many functionalities are being compromised on mobile devices.

In case, you still want to restrict the user to download the file on small screen devices, I would recommend to use a Popup/Modal Window or Tooltip - showing a regret message to the user.

Also if you use a small Popup on click of those downloadable buttons, you can offer a handy checkbox to the user to check if he/she wants to proceed all the downloads on same device – or would instead prefer to switch to the desktop version of the app later.

That way the control will always be there in user's hands, which is the need of an hour. ;)

  • Can you cite any sources for the UI trend you mention here? It would be great to have a link to some research showing how those trends are moving. Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 10:20
  • Thanks! Users can currently download PDFs and Excel data. The data in question is DAE and SKP data for use in 3D modeling programs so unfortunately there's no real use case for downloading the raw data to a mobile device. Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 21:54
  • Sorry Andrew, I don't have any such reference in my mind right now, but you can take some idea from here - material.angularjs.org/latest/demo/dialog Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 10:34

I would go for option 2. You should also manage the users expectations. If the downloading functionality is not available on a mobile, displaying a 'download' button, even if disabled, will convey to the user that download could be possible somehow, which might prompt the user to be looking around for ways to enable the button, when that isn't possible.

Instead, a clear message informing the user of what is going on is not only a more honest approach, as a less frustrating one in the long term.

Hope this helps :)


Disclose what the file is. Users will be able to make a decision, or simply try and see if their phone supports the format.

Don't take away your visitors' agency by saying "We don't think you have the right computer so we'll prevent you from doing something".

  • Thanks! It's data DAE and SKP data for use in 3D modeling programs so unfortunately there's no real use case for downloading the raw data to a mobile device. Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 21:55
  • Sounds like you already know what to say then ;)
    – Lalabadie
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 12:53

Technically, you should be able to determine resolution of devise browser. If it is less than your desktop standard, do following;

On mobile version;

  • disable download button
  • change disable text to "Download is available on desktop version".
  • Add a line of text under the disabled download button explaining why.

Hope this helps.

  • Most modern (high end) Android phones have 2560x1440 displays. Mid-tier tend to be 1920x1080. iOS Tablets have standardised to a higher resolution than this, at 2048x1536, yet can't download, and are mobile devices. The fact mobile devices (and all web connected devices) generally tell the truth when reporting what OS and version of browser their query is coming from (with a few exceptions) is far more useful determinant than their resolution.
    – Confused
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 5:36
  • I see. Here you can use some simple script to take care of this confusion. Try something like this available over here. stackoverflow.com/questions/3514784/… Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 3:36
  • The confusion is that you don't seem to see I'm saying your answer doesn't work. Browser window resolution (your answer) is not a good determinant of device.
    – Confused
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 4:13

Option 1 (removing) is a common one so users are already get used that some features are only available on the widescreen version (or vice versa). However, disable it and you for sure get the "why is it disabled?" frustration. Showing message is to be on the safe side but not a good UX for some reasons. For example, the button yet takes space, which is very limited on the mobile version, while providing no value.

Remove the button on the mobile version with no concerns at all.

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