Currently our system is limited in that we only allow documents to be downloaded and not folders. Eventually we will allow the download of folders, but not in the immediate future.

So right now if you have one or more documents selected, the Download button is enabled on the toolbar. If you have one or more folders selected OR folders and documents selected, the Download button is disabled. We are guessing users might not understand why it is disabled in this situation. However, we could use a tooltip to mitigate this.

Should we change the button to be enabled and then display a message letting the user know that the folder(s) will not be downloaded? If so, what is the best way to handle that message…before the download begins or after it’s complete? As an alert instead of a message in a modal dialog? I’m not sure about the wording as well. I don’t want them to think the folder(s) didn’t download just this time, but know that this is the current behavior. I don’t want them to think they need to try it again.

  • 4
    The best answer is to not let them select folders in the first place if you don't currently support them
    – paparazzo
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 14:32
  • i agree with Blam, but, i would like to know if selecting folder would enable any other feature apart from download?
    – sree
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 15:44
  • Yes, selecting files and folders enables other features. Only after they are seleted may the user choose whether they will "Download" or "Delete" (other actions will be coming, as well). We cannot disable selection of folders preemptively because we do not yet know the action they will take. Unless, however, we disable the deletion of folders as well.
    – abutment
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 14:35

3 Answers 3


There are a number of things you can do to make the situation clearer.

Can you disable the folders from being selected in the first place? If you can then I think this is the simplest solution.

You could change the text of the button to make it clear that only files will be downloaded (e.g. button text: Download Files). Once the folder download feature is available you can alter the text again to reflect this.

If you never disable the download button, and just ignore folders:

  • It is better to notify the user up front (i.e. before clicking the button) that the folders will be ignored. I would suggest that you put this warning somewhere the user will see it before they click the download button (beside the selected folder, or beside the download button).

  • You could also display a notification after the download is complete. Show the list of folders that were ignored, and the reason why. I would make this a sliding / toast notification rather than a dialog that must be clicked away.

  • 1
    +1 for suggestions, however I object that "Download Files" won't be enought of a statement to the users, that only files will be downloaded. I assume that the users will understand it as files & folders and expect the folders also to be downloaded. In that case you will need a second statement like a notification to make it clear. Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 15:02
  • @AlexejFroehlich I didn't intend the answer as a "pick one option" kind of thing, so yes I think that just changing the button text isn't enough on its own.
    – Franchesca
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 15:13

You should give immediate feedback, you should not allow users to select 10 folders and give a message when they click the download button.

Whenever a folder is selected, display an appropriate message, and de-select the folder.

Disabling folders is also a very good solution, the only problem I see is that the user will not know why folders are disabled.

The solution also depends from the type of your users. Are they novices ? Are they occasional users or do they use the interfaces frequently ? etc.


ReSharper has a good approach in this kind of situation. It shows a little badge on the disabled button with a tooltip describing why the button is disabled:

Badge on disable button

Of course, this can only be used if the number of buttons is limited.

If your users are not "computer friendly" they may not think to fly over the icon with their mouse, so if you have the space, you can show explicitly the tooltip under the button like this:

Always visible tooltip

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