Say you have a list of let's say 30 "friends".

Now there's a concept, "select some of them" to perform an action. No problem. You bring up a list with checks down the side, the user checks what they want, perhaps five of them.

As the universe evolves, the developers let you "create groups".

So of the 30, I can make say four groups

  • friends
  • online friends
  • buddies
  • siblings

each one would be able to be edited, deleted and renamized. and of course you can "add a new" custom group.

I have two questions,

(1) I am trying to think of an app or www that has an example of this. There is one on the tip of my fingers - there's a really well-known example of this but I am damned if I can think of it ! Truly appreciate any examples

(2) In the opinion of Us, (surely the last word in UX opinion), how do you go about this?

So step 1, you click "send" (or whatever) and the

  • normal list (of 30) appears; you can tediously select some. this is "ad hoc" selection

Then, you're going to have a list (four in the example above) of "custom groups" (which you have previously made)

  • instead of adhoc selection, you can select one of your saved groups

Should those be on the same screen as the ad-hoc screen (perhaps at the top?), or should you have to navigate to even select one of those from another screen, or perhaps a popup, or?

Then the issue of, you have to be able to

  • edit/delete/rename - and indeed "add a whole new one" - of the custom groups

Again, I would love to see some major examples of this - I am blanking on thinking of some. And secondly - how to?

(A final point - is there a good name for this concept? the adhoc one we see all the time is just "multiple selection", perhaps this is best called "saved groups" or "custom presets" or something.)

2 Answers 2


Aren’t you overthinking this? Say we have an address book and you want to select people individually or whole groups. Just create an action that’s says “Add people” and an action that says “Add groups”. Then show the list that unambiguously contains what it promised.

Name the actions whatever is suitable for the situation (add .. , select ... etc.).

It doesn’t have to be just an ad-hoc list and group list though. If it is for administrating employees with roles and positions, there can be actions to select from three lists: “add employees by role”, “add by position”, “add by individual”. All are multi selection lists, but to select from a different “category”. So you can consider the “all employees” list to be a category too.

If you keep the lists separated it is also easy to add extra functionality to them and to manage each list individually; Provide a button to add and buttons next to each item to delete and/or edit.

But to give advice on how to implement this, that is a whole other story. It depends completely on the context within the app you want to create and the design of that app. Without any details, it is impossible to say if you need a popup/modal for that or the full screen size.


I'm not able to answer both questions right now, but to answer question 1: Gmail is a common example, if you're looking for an example of making selections from a list, then taking action. Or any other email client for that matter. Also, services like box, dropbox, onedrive.\

.. OK so I can try to answer question 2 now! For taking action on things, a more common pattern is to select the item(s) you want to take action on first and then take the action (again this is how the above examples work). And if you do include groups and individuals (that are not contained in groups) in the same list, the possible actions could vary in the UI, dependent on what is selected, e.g. (this is hypothetical):

  • If only individual friends are selected your only possible actions are Send or Add to group
  • If only one group is selected, your only possible actions are Send, Edit Group, Rename Group, Delete Group
  • If more than one group is selected, your only possible actions are: Send, Delete Group
  • If a mixture of group(s) and individual(s) are selected, your only possible action is: Send

To take an example from OneDrive (this is based on the number of items selected, rather than types of things, but the concept is the same) see how the actions at the top change based on selection:

Zero items selected: enter image description here

One item selected: enter image description here

Multiple items selected: enter image description here

  • hmm, gmail and dropbox specifically don't have a feature where you can "organize and save your groups of selections" ..
    – Fattie
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 22:57
  • Right - Gmail doesn't use groups as such, but uses tags (which is a slightly different method of grouping and can be advantageous if you want items to be able to be put in more than one group). For dropbox, I was really only looking at it as an example of the the select/take action pattern. Commented May 18, 2018 at 13:51
  • Am asking here about groups
    – Fattie
    Commented May 19, 2018 at 16:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.