A long time ago I saw a show on TV where they asked random people on the street if they knew what a "browser" was (they didn't). I thought there was more information about that and about the term "browse" itself, but after looking all over the place I haven't been able to find anything about it.

We are building an interface to upload files and I would like to change the term "Browse to choose files." to "Upload files." but I don't have a solid justification or argument to do so. Obviously we plan to do some testing for this, but we are not at that stage just yet in the process.

Does anyone know of some kind of documentation about this subject that you can point me to?

  • 1
    I guess it depends on which "users" you are talking about. For some you might even be able to say "write your own file upload code and paste it here". In short, how technical are they? You really need to identify your target audience before you can make the decision
    – musefan
    May 29, 2020 at 13:55
  • Good point. Our application serves a very broad spectrum of users, we have both advanced and technically driven users, but we also have clients with far less technical knowledge. So our approach is to name things based on our less technically inclined users and satisfy a broader user base. May 29, 2020 at 13:58
  • 1
    It is a interesting topic to know about. Good one. May 29, 2020 at 13:59
  • @RicardoZea: Ah, the worst situation then... if you dumb it down too much then the "smarties" might not enjoy using it... If it helps your confirmation bias, I would go with "Upload Files", or if I wanted to be more cautious perhaps, "Click here to Upload Files" (depending on how "clickable" your button designs are).
    – musefan
    May 29, 2020 at 14:12
  • 1
    When I saw the title, I assumed you were going to be asking about web-browsers, not a file browser. As a techie, I would immediately understand "Browse to choose files" from the context, and perhaps a good number of "ordinary" users would too. But my (unsubstantiated) suspicion is minimally-computer-literate users might think of "the web" first and possibly get confused. For them, at least, I'd go with musefan's suggestions of "Upload Files" or "Choose Files to Upload".
    – TripeHound
    May 30, 2020 at 15:15

2 Answers 2


Personally I would understand the intention regardless of which wording you choose, then again I consider myself a more technical user. So let's look at it from a non-technical point of view, which is who you are trying to reach out to here.

I think the word "browse" can be misleading as it could be interpreted as the action of looking through a collection of something. It certainly does not suggest the action of uploading files. So no, I don't think you can rely on users knowing what "browse" means.

It is better to be more specific about the action that the user is expected to perform, and that is that they need to upload some files.

  • The button should say "Upload Files" or "Choose Files to Upload"
  • The browser element would benefit from the message "Select one or more files to upload" as a reminder, if possible
  • The browser element should have a confirm button that says "Upload Selected Files"

Any user that struggles with this was probably going to end up needing support to do it anyway.

I think the main point here is: there is no benefit to using "browse" over "upload", where as there is a benefit to using "upload" over "browse" (i.e. the intent is more clear). So you're not going to be any worse off by dropping "browse".

  • This is exactly how I'm thinking about it. This is a bit of an unusual case due to the type of companies our app is capable of serving so narrowing down a specific path as per as specific user base isn't as clear cut as with other products/services. Thanks for your input! May 29, 2020 at 14:49

Good thought Ricardo.

I went through some content research for about 10 mins now, I found something like this.

If you use Browse to choose files then there must be a upload button to be given ones the files are browsed and selected.

If you use 'Upload files' then probably there is a chance of letting the internet guest appearance user let know what it means directly. For eg: My dad when saw browse to choose files did not understand as I recall. He asked me 'Internet is asking me to browse'. However, when he saw a upload button with label text as upload files, it probably saved him some mental work on thinking what it is.

Apart from this, I did not find any research on this as of now.

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.