Client has a desktop-only website that is migrating to be responsive. Contact us form has a button to attach a file (not necessary a picture).

My thought is: attaching a file with a phone is arduous. I don't see any other solution than linking to a cloud where files are stored, and even so, I don't think it would be used that much.

What do mobile users expect to happen with such 'attach' buttons, and what should we do to handle this?

  • 2
    This is also tricky because the user's phone might not necessarily have file management that allows them to choose attachments.
    – John S.
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 14:44
  • Actually, the limited and restricted file system access common mobile OSs expose to the user can make it simpler for them to select a file – if it’s available on the device or on transparently integrated cloud storage.
    – Crissov
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 15:03
  • @JonW : I think it's a mix of what users expect and what we should do to handle this. JohnS and Crissov: Yes you are right. That's why I am puzzled!
    – Catherine
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 15:17

1 Answer 1


If there's a particular reason the users of the site would want to send images (e.g. screenshots for bug reports or support), then I would re-label the file-upload widget as something like "upload image" for the mobile version of your form while leaving the desktop version unchanged.

On iOS, a standard HTML file-upload widget triggers an action sheet that lets you take or choose a photo, so with the re-labeling you'd be all set.

iOS file upload screenshot

On Android, it seems that hitting a HTML file-upload widget gives you a choice to upload photo, video, or from "Documents," and choosing "Documents" exposes files from your cloud drive and downloads in addition to images and such, but nevertheless, a user wanting to upload from those places through their Android device seems like a pretty limited use case.

Android file upload screenshot

In general, I'd say that uploading an arbitrary file through a mobile device is a pretty esoteric task for most users. Heck, it is for me, and I'm supposed to be a UX guy.

So in sum I'd say that re-labeling the widget to "upload picture" could work, as taking & sharing pics and traversing the camera roll are well-worn tasks for most mobile users. But if there is not a particular reason that it's important for your users to upload images, I would consider omitting the document upload widget from the mobile version of your form entirely.

  • Also, I'm not an experienced Android user, so please excuse any gross inaccuracies in that department! Commented Oct 23, 2014 at 15:34
  • You are right Mark! For us too it looks extremely esoteric, but we came up with a solution along those lines, that basically we would search a cloud or a dropbox. We are still waiting for data on this: how many people really attach files.....
    – Catherine
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 14:24

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