I was wondering, if we were intent to let users make a choice, which UI/UX design is better, and why? - Pop up dialog or drop down list?

Pop up dialog

enter image description here

Drop down list

enter image description here enter image description here

The reason I ask so is that I'm currently designing a configuration page, for user to choose during home screen widget placing.

  • Choose 1 out of 2 choices, dark theme or white theme.
  • Choose 1 out of N choices, usually 10. Like "[country flag] My Watchlist", "[country flag] Son Watchlist", ...

My initial plan is something like

enter image description here

Just that, I'm not sure whether I should use Pop up dialog design, or drop down list design, for item [My Watchlist Choice].

  • 1
    Could you provide a bit more context, such as experience of your users, the number of options to select from, and how likely it is the user would change the default selection.
    – Erics
    Feb 3, 2014 at 16:41

2 Answers 2


Knowing the general pro's / con's should indicate when one is a better fit and why. What I have top of mind is


  • can display more choices at a time (help user scan more efficiently)
  • hides other screen items (less visual noise, user can focus on task)
  • can layout in sections (to help user navigate if many choices)
  • can do non-list layouts (grid / tree. Helps user navigate between choices)
  • can add filter/find options (to help user find choice among many)

Drop Down

  • keeps context of the information being requested visible (helps user consider correct answer between two similar items)
  • does not require as large an eye shift (thus quicker user comprehension and response)

Overall it would appear, use Drop Down for a short list with a contextually sensitive choice. Use a Pop-up for long list with a standalone choice.

(edits and comments welcome)


I think the big difference between drop down and pop-up is the fact that the last add a layer to the screen (it's better to avoid multiple pop-up which tends to be confuse).

So, if you're asking the user to choose from a list in a pop-up, it's clearly better to use a drop-down.

That been said, pop-up block the navigation so the user can't miss it and has to do something (making a choice for example). So if you really need him to answer a question, it would be great to consider using pop-up. Otherwise, if you have some kinds of default values or if the choice is only a part of a form, drop-down is fine.

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.