I have observed some people fumble with a mouse. They seem unable to synchronize clicking the buttons and sliding the mouse consistently, to where they drag things when they only meant to click on them. Or in trying to use drag-and-drop, they inadvertently drop too soon because they can't keep their finger on the mouse button for the whole travel. Or they have trouble aiming the mouse while keeping the button pressed.

The web application is a simple toolbar. Think stickers, like gold stars for favorites, or thumbs-down for disfavor, or a red X for deletion. I want users to be able to apply those stickers from a "toolbar" on the edge, to objects on a web page. Drag-and-drop works for this.

For less dextrous users I envision what I'm calling click-and-drop. Instead of dragging with the mouse button depressed the whole time, it proceeds like this: one full click (mousedown + mouseup) on the toolbar "picks up" the icon. Now the mouse-cursor is replaced by the icon while the mouse moves, possibly with a grabbing hand next to it. A second full click at the destination "drops" the icon and the mouse-cursor goes back to what it was. Is there a name for this already? Maybe that action is more like dipping a paintbrush in a watercolor well, rather than a tool-belt.

Would this click-and-drop alternative be helpful for a good portion of dexterity-challenged web users? Are there better alternatives?

Without muddying this question too much, I was further thinking this alternative might transport to mobile or pad devices. Touch the toolbar, the icon hovers say in the upper right corner, pan to the destination, tap the destination once to "drop" the icon. I bring this up mainly for the consideration of consistency across devices. Though perhaps an entirely different scheme is better for the multi-touch world.

  • Have you considered users that cannot use a mouse and are limited to using just a keyboard? Jul 30, 2013 at 14:08
  • Yes, thanks @MartinWickman. I was planning on parallel keyboard features using something like BinnyVA's keyboard shortcuts. I guess there will still have to be lots of arrow keystrokes to pick the target (noun) and pick the tool (verb).
    – Bob Stein
    Jul 30, 2013 at 16:43

2 Answers 2


I'd recommend to think of the different interaction. Currently your interaction model is "verb-noun", where "verb" is an action upon some object, which is called "noun". First user pick "verb" then apply it to the "noun".

There is other interaction model, "noun-verb". It means user picks object first then selects available actions on it.

These interaction models are described in The Humane Interface by J.Raskin.
In chapter 3.3 Noun-Verb versus Verb-Noun Constructons there are arguments for the "noun-verb" model:

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  • Very helpful and compelling. And eerie, I was already calling the tools "verbs" and the objects "nouns" in the abstract.
    – Bob Stein
    Jul 27, 2013 at 15:05

Clicking and dropping might be a bit confusing depending on the context of the application. If there are objects in the app/program that can be clicked, then how will you decide what can be dragged and what cannot? The available areas to drop the object should be mentioned, as well as the status of "you are dragging a _".

Drag-and-drop in tablets and in touchpads sometimes can be a bit tricky, but there are alternatives. In tablets, one of the options is to long-tap to grab. Once you do that, the element becomes bigger and could drop a shadow, so it looks like it hovers over the other elements. Once you drag it to its destination, you can suggest to tap to drop and make the elements undraggable or fixed again. This is used in iOS' devices.

Multi-touch actions for dragging and dropping are also a possibility, but they require some instructions. Dragging and dropping with a mouse is still, in my opinion, the most natural way of performing these kinds of actions, but as you pointed out, if/when there are mobility/accessibility issues at hand, other options could be considered.

  • Thanks for your detailed points, EdGG, especially about multi-touch. The draggables will be on a toolbar, and the droppables will highlight when drag-hovering over them. The same droppables are also selectables, in @Alexey's noun-first variation, and those will both show a special cursor when hovering, and respond to clicks. I've heard of the long-press/long-tap idea, it may work for verb-noun action. I would like to avoid pauses, so users get fluent and fast. I'm thinking the toolbar can appear from the sidelines after a noun is selected, so two clicks could do it in noun-verb order.
    – Bob Stein
    Jul 30, 2013 at 16:53

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