I have a list of items a user can pick from. From this list, the user can set a default item. What would be the standard pattern for doing that?

Ideas - star an item, add a "Default" badge next to it, any other ideas?

3 Answers 3


A common pattern for this is to prompt the user which item to use when the application first needs to know (e.g. opening a file of a new file type for the first time), then allow them to remember their selection as the default item by checking a (potentially pre-checked) box between the selection list and the confirmation button(s). I am not sure about your context but this often makes sense because it doesn't require the user to go to the preferences and pre-configure things themselves and shows the option in context.

Afterwards, users generally have the option of changing this somewhere in a preferences section. This seems to be implemented most often by opening a dialog with a list from which they can select the item, or by showing a list in-place and letting them select the default by picking a check-box/radio button next to the item and highlighting the current choice visually.

I would argue that it makes sense to offer the choice in-context when first encountered, and use a standard list selection with either radio buttons or a "set as default" button and ample visual cues about which item is the current default.


Without a wireframe or the purpose of this list, it is hard to tell exactly what the best way would be. I would say for selecting the item, tapping the list item and having a "make default item" option would be simple. For displaying the item, I would say if it is important than put it at the top of the list, maybe even separate from the list on top to highlight it's importance. If it doesn't need to be on top, you can mark it with the text "Default". I would avoid using stars because that indicates "favorite" items as far as common tools like gmail. Users may think they can star more than 1 item, which would not be the case in your situation I imagine. Either way, a wireframe would be helpful in providing a more guided answer on what you need


I would say a good way to communicate "this is the default" is to require no interaction to select/stay on the default.

Of course, only certain UI patterns afford this: Text input, select, and so on:

An example of the HTML tag select

here, 'Volvo' is default.

Naturally, no one is stopping you from having an ul with list items and one of them has a badge next to it saying DEFAULT.

However, I'd say this is neither particularly intuitive nor convenient when the selection is done often (as your description seems to indicate). If you go this route, I think there is no definite standard pattern to signify the default item. Just go with something that fits your app's metaphoric language and doesn't clash (e.g. don't use a star if you also have a star rating system elsewhere).

TLDR: Use a UI pattern that allows zero clicks when leaving it on default; if that's impossible, just pick any fitting icon.

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