Is drag and drop (for say photo uploads) a good idea? Aren't users frustrated by all the steps you have to take? Do most people even know how to do it?

  • Open a window
  • Browse to your files
  • Ensure correct window overlapping
  • Drag and drop (with risk of dragging and dropping to the wrong place, i.e. a shared folder, the trash etc.)
  • 1
    Good question. In the context of a file selector (for photo uploads among other things) I never use drag and drop. And of course drag drop is used much less on touch because it's rather clumsy. But no doubt people expect it on the desktop. I'd like to know how many people would be disappointed if a file uploader didn't support it.
    – obelia
    Jul 23, 2013 at 19:20
  • 1
    On a desktop I use it all the time because of it's directness when moving things from one place to another. For example dragging and dropping a whole bunch of files to a media app; moving files from one folder to another etc.
    – uxzapper
    Jul 23, 2013 at 23:26
  • 1
    Which platform are you talking about? On the Mac, drag and drop is far, far more useful (and seemingly more heavily depended upon) than on Windows. I use it exceedingly often (hundreds of times a day). I can grab a photo from within an iPhoto window or a song from an iTunes library or an attachment from a mail message and drag it directly onto a file upload window without even knowing where on the system it actually resides.
    – Kit Grose
    Jul 24, 2013 at 4:17
  • 1
    Dragging to the wrong place is a good point - although what really gets me is the lack of an undo/emergency-stop function when I drag things to the wrong place. Jul 24, 2013 at 8:41
  • @JessicaYang When you drag to the wrong place the simplest undo is to drag them again from there to where you meant them to go in the first place. This can be made really easy if the files you dragged are/stay automatically selected in their new location. Jul 24, 2013 at 10:55

7 Answers 7


Drag & drop is absolutely an expected behavior to support. It's like asking "Should we support keyboard shortcuts?".

While the feature may not be used by the majority of users, the ones that do use it really rely on it.

  • 1
    The one time I think it wen't to far is with click and drag blocks of selected text. I cannot fathom why someone would think that is a feature so important that it justifies it's error prone nature.
    – user28446
    Jul 25, 2013 at 3:05
  • Hardly anyone ever uses drag&drop, hardly anyone really likes it (but developers like building it and managers like selling it), but sometimes it's just the best way to do something. Aug 20, 2013 at 14:13

Drag-and-Drop is a lot easier and I prefer it over "Browse-Locate-Upload" Function whenever it comes to attaching files to email, creating albums or upload files to drop-box.

With Drag-and-Drop, you use your favorite image browser and locate the file more easily then using a small "Locate File Dialogue Box" which often doesn't show preview and locating a folder requires multiple clicks. Most of the time when you want to upload a file, you have the file located already (either in image viewer or windows/mac explorer) and thus there is no effort to locate the file.

Now when you compare Dragging-Dropping (single action requiring one click) Vs Browse-Locate(multiple-clicks)-Upload, you know which is the right way to go.


Yes it is.

You shouldn't rely on your drag and drop functionality as the only way to upload files. I agree it is an 'advanced' features which many users don't know. Many users are clumsy with there mouse, so dragging a file across the screen can be hard, especially on trackpads! But in many cases, this method is a way faster.

You ask 'Aren't users frustrated by all the steps'? You could reverse the question: Aren't users frustrated by the steps needed to upload files via the normal method?

  • Open a Window: Opening a window (I assume you mean a finder/explorer window) is an equally frustrating job then using the 'Browse files' button: you need one click. But, in many cases I found the files I want to upload are already open in a window. (I just worked on them, or just connect a device and they pop-up automatically...)
  • Browse your files: This is equally as frustrating as your the traditional method. Like above, in many cases there is already a window open with your files! This is a huge win! You can skip the whole browse-to-files steps and save many clicks. Traditional upload-dialogs start in your root folder.
  • Ensure windows are overlapping: Why do your windows need to be overlapping? I never do this. You just drag them to the application-icon or if you are in the wrong browser-tab: drag them on the tab of your destination. Advanced users also use command-tab/alt-tab to switch application without the need to drag it over the icon.
  • If you drop them in the wrong location in your File explorer, just hit undo and all changes are reversed.

A huge advantage of drag en drop is the ability to drop files on locations where there is no visible uploader, but the context (like an online file explorer) indicate it should be possible. This save you the trouble of navigation to a menu to find the upload feature. Note that the (web)application where you are dropping the files need to facilitate the feature the right way, for example accepting uploads to be dropped anywhere in your window instead of on a specific area.

I use them both, depending on the context.


Yes, people do use them now. But the 4th point you specified is correct one. There is a risk of dragging and dropping to the wrong place.

If guidelines are specified properly, the mess may be reduced.



It's a question of user's mental model. If I give you a ball, it's likely that you'll want to throw it.. or if have a button you are likely to press it.

A simple example for drag and drop is priorty order of a list. Forgetting about the software, the mental model of the users in most cases would be to take what you want and move it up or down. The design simply reflects that, and because it works as expected, it leads to a positive experience.

The frustration would come from a few reasons:

  • Their mental model was not of drag and drop, but the interface expects that
  • The drag and drop is not implemented correctly, this could be any thing: It's nto clear what can be dragged, it's not easy to grab it, it's easy to loose it when dragging, the state of the object is unclear, it's unclear where it can be dropped, there is no feedback that it was dropped correctly etc.

Perhaps it has to do with when you learned to use a computer? I learned with command line interfaces. So for me, the majority of the cool things you can do with a mouse all collapse on to: Right-Click and choose from Menu, because that is how I recall commands: items from a list of possibilities. It never occurs to me to drag, I always select, right-click to Copy or Cut, go where I want the files to go, right-click to Paste...

I just now read in a book that said something about "dragging files to the Recycle Bin" and I thought, My Gosh! That is possible, but in 20 years I have never thought to do it! Wow. But I use Shift-Del and Shift-Ins to Cut - Undo - Paste somewhere else all the time. It is way fast! Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V are error-prone.

  • Not only when, but also what kind of computer you learnt on. If it was an 1980s Mac, then dragging and dropping was how you did everything .
    – PhillipW
    Oct 19, 2018 at 19:29

Yes they do use drag and drop. Infact, i think when a user gets a new app, they would try to see if drag and drop works for them in an appropriate scenario, i know i would, because it is one of the oldest and best-est trick in the book. People are so much accustomed to drag and drop and i dont really think a person who has experience using a computer(which is like everybody today) will make much mistakes during drag and drop, maybe once in a while or so.

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