With more and more people using mobile devices (or devices which doesn't have right click gesture), its getting tough to indicate that there is an activity that involves right click on desktop devices, especially for those applications which became popular on mobile devices or people started using them on mobile devices first like facebook or gmail.

Do you think right click is still an important gesture to hold on too, or should it be completely ignored while doing website design?

  • Where do you see an use case for right click on websites?
    – Mervin
    Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 4:42
  • 1
    Even Google Drive uses them for spreadsheets and selections in text documents. Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 13:57

6 Answers 6


I have rather strong views on this subject so please take my opinions with whatever serving of salt you like.

That said, I love right click in the browser. When I am on the desktop and working within a web application (Google Dive for example) I often find myself right clicking and seeking to perform an action. And often times - especially when operating within a web app - I am disappointed to find limited or no functionality nestled away in that menu.

That said, I don't believe you should ever have to right click in a web browser for any reason. And for our touch only friends this can be especially frustrating.

So, my approach when designing web applications where I could see benefit of adding a right click context menu to some portions of the app is to first design the interactions so that they can be accomplished with no right clicking whatsoever. Once that is done, if I do believe that some significant portion of users will find benefit from a right click context menu and there is enough time and resources to properly implement the menu, I say go for it!

I hold this same view on keyboard shortcuts. A lot of users don't know about them or care to use them, but for some certain power users they sure make life easier and work quicker.

  • I agree with everything except I feel it applies equally to right-click on the desktop—you shouldn't ever have to right-click to achieve anything at all. Every function that can be applied via a contextual menu should also be achievable via a standard menu item too, as Apple recommends. Contextual menus are great but highly undiscoverable and require much more dexterity from users.
    – Kit Grose
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 5:33
  • Thanks for your answer. However, with the current trends when people are using mobile devices more and more, and it could be possible that people may browse through your website only on their tabs or mobiles. Then, why shouldn't one let go thinking about right-clicks forever? Commented Feb 16, 2013 at 6:22
  • @gurvinder372 well I suppose the key comes in with "some significant portion of users will find benefit from a right click context menu." I work developing a web app which is, by a vast majority, primarily accessed via the browser on a laptop or desktop. Secondly by tablets like ipads and lastly by smart phones. So for me it makes sense, perhaps for you it doesn't. Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 15:36
  • @KitGrose it seems to me that a lot of us UX people criticize right click menus for their "undiscoverability" (I certainly have in the past) but I cant tell you how many times a user has right clicked on a balsamiq mockup during a usability test. I do still stand by the fact that it needs to be able to function without right click but I think that a right click context menu can add a lot of value. Commented Feb 18, 2013 at 15:42
  • @MattLavoie that's just my point! Users at this point have learnt to right-click on things just to see what options are available to them at any given point in time! If we as designers didn't hide useful things in invisible places, users wouldn't need to check the context menu at all (Mac users, for instance, often don't even know how to bring up a context menu until taught).
    – Kit Grose
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 3:38

Firstly, right click isn't a consideration in website design, but may be in desktop software.

Try to design your software to not need a right click in the first place. It will be more discoverable, and will translate to mobile well. I have seen some applications use a long press as the equivalent of a right click, but I wouldn't recommend this as you would be breaking the generally accepted use of long press. The Android design guide recommends long press as:

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  • 1
    Right click is used in web sites and to great advantage I must say. Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 7:26
  • @MarjanVenema Could you give me an example of where it is used in a website and not as a secondary option from the browser (which is desktop software)?
    – JohnGB
    Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 13:23
  • 1
    Try google drive, start a spreadsheet and right click on a cell. Or start a text document, add some text, select some text and right click on the selected text. Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 13:55
  • @MarjanVenema fair enough, but I would argue (as would Google I think) that those are applications that run in the browser. To me that does not make something a website, but I'm sure many would disagree.
    – JohnGB
    Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 14:15
  • 1
    I hear you, but where would you draw the line? And a counter argument would be "Applications or sites ... who cares, to me they are all the same: something I look at and interact with in my browser" :-D Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 14:31

It's possible that in the future the right click will go the way of the Dodo, but a lot here depends on your intentions and your user demographic.

If your intention is to be strictly cutting edge and your user demographic is very familiar with gestures (and perhaps Mac users?), then by all means avoid it. If your intention is to hang on to conventions that most users will recognize and your users are a broader range of people including older people who may not be up to date on gestures, then my advice is to continue using a right click.

It should be noted that intention is the most critical aspect of great web design.

This article will give you great insight: http://sachagreif.com/the-flat-sink/


yes I Back,JohnGB. Right click is not recommended for websites. If you are using it, please be cautious about the findability score of that feature. Again Mouse Hover is also auto-of scope for touch devices.

So Try to be selective, minimilistic about features and pitch on the most commonly used interactions.


I don't think that there is a generic answer to this. You need to determine if your users expect there a contextual menu.

If your users (or some important subset of your users) expect that there should be a contextual menu, and have expectations about what that contextual menu should contain, then you probably need a contextual menu. If you increase the time that it takes for a user to complete their goal, or if you block them from completing a goal, then you are negatively impacting their user experience. There are many workflows on a website that could benefit from quick access via a contextual menu instead of having to look elsewhere to find the same functionality.

That said, I strongly agree with the Apple Human Interface Guidelines, which says this:

Avoid providing access to features only in toolbars or contextual menus. Because toolbars and contextual menus may be hidden, the commands they contain should always be available in menu bar menus as well. Presuming that your website won't have its own menu bar, but the point remains the same: a contextual menu should never be the only way that a feature can be accessed. There should always be another entry point.

For the purposes of this answer, I'm not drawing a distinction between a website (ex: http://google.com/) and a web application (ex: http://mail.google.com/). The line between these two is thin and getting thinner with each passing day, as it becomes easier to create very rich web experiences.


I don't know that right-click is going to ever disappear completely because it is such a well used and loved tool for desktop design. I have seen many a user trying to use right click in user tests as well.

A great way I and other designers have found to avoid using right click in web based design is by giving a settings or tools button in the upper right hand corner of whatever card or div the user wants to take action on. By giving them a button to open up the context menu you avoid the discoverability issues that come with invisible right clicks, while still giving the user those nifty contextual tools in a semi familiar way.


A settings icon in the top right corner of a card

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