I'm currently building a webapp and want to give people an easy way to copy and paste their content to another tool.

The content itself is formatted quite strangely on our website (for a number of reasons). What people want to copy tends to be just the plain text from the page (or some portion of it).

We are going back and forth between a simple copy button and a modal with a copy button so users can decide what they want to copy.

What I am wondering is do users actually want copy buttons or do they want to press CRTL-C themselves?

  • do you have a mock of what users are seeing / selecting? And what do the users want to do with this text?
    – Mike M
    Sep 7, 2017 at 21:29

3 Answers 3



In accessibility scenarios is better to have a button. For example, someone using a head wand will prefer just a button, because selecting content is very difficult.

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But this is not just for extreme cases. For example, if I'm using a mouse and just use it for navigation, having a "copy" button will be more comfortable than not having it.

As a matter of fact, right before I wrote this answer I used it at Google Translate, where you can select and ctrl+c, or simply copy text with a button, which means that people actually use that button.

Of course, ctrl+c allows for a refined selection and it's a native behavior, so you'll always have it, and your users will use it anyway. So this is a given, the only difference is to add the button, and you should do it for the reasons explained above.

  • The accessibility point is a good one. I hesitate to mark this as the answer as ultimately I was hoping somebody would respond by citing concrete research about usage of these buttons.
    – calumb
    Sep 7, 2017 at 23:38

This is a case where both accessibility, as illustrated by @Devin, and level of experience of the user is key.

One of the eternal conundrums of interaction and interface design is how to address the needs of both beginning users and expert users with a single, coherent interface.

A beginner user needs more instruction than an expert user. In this case, the button marked 'copy' provides a clear reassurance that pressing this button copies the marked text. An expert user does not need this reassurance nor instruction. He will use keyboard shortcuts by default if possible. Having a button enables both groups to do what they want, while not being in the way of those that know how to do things faster. If you aren't sure that your users are all intermediates or experts that use keyboard shortcuts, it's a safe thing to include these kinds of things.

The only way to truly know if it's a useful addition is to A/B test and/or usability test different kind of groups, including beginners and experts, and to assess the accessibility for 'non-standard' context scenarios. I don't think this has been researched like this because it's too heavily dependant on the application and its target audience, can't really make a general statement.


Whatever you do please don't force them to copy all text if they only want to select part of it. The auto select all overriding what I have selected is very annoying. I am looking at you Google analytics tag copy!

(Answer because can't add this as a comment)

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