I am working at a place where we develop expert systems for the finance business. Previously we have had native desktop applications, but moved to web applications during the past years. In our latest solution, we had a web application that replicated a native desktop application in its interaction patterns, design, etc. We are now to develop a new product with the stated goal to "move to the future". How should we reason regarding replicating a desktop application vs. moving it completely to the web (using standard web patterns etc.).

If we are to design a system that follows standard web patterns, how to do with the right-click menu? It seems like something that people have different opinions on, some think it's all native and certainly don't belong on the web whilst others like the efficiency with it and wants to keep it.

Since usefulness is equally (or more) important as usability, is it OK to keep the right-click menu on an "all-web" system, or should we find other ways to navigate/select things? Do you have examples of other ways to do this?

The actions in today's right-click menu can be an action for a specific row and/or several rows

The actions in today's right-click menu can be an action for a specific row and/or several rows

  • 2
    This is way too broad of a question. But in hopes of helping, whether you build a native app vs. a web app has little to do with the expertise of the end-user. End users have used both, and will likely continue to use both. So don't dwell on the 'expert user' as being a deciding factor here for this particular decision. You instead should list all the pros/cons you can think of in regards to native vs. web in the context of your company and software and then see which of those pros best helps the expert user.
    – DA01
    Dec 2, 2014 at 8:16

3 Answers 3


Some high-function web apps with roots on the desktop, like Google Docs, Sheets and the new Google Drive, use right-click menus effectively.

Even a touch interface can adapt with some success, like the Citrix GoToMyPC tablet client using virtual mouse buttons.

  1. If you're looking towards the future, it's a great time to re-evaluate the interaction patterns of your app. Can you rethink things to make actions simpler and more discoverable?
  2. While the answer to that is almost always yes, you may still decide that your app needs the right-click menu. Fortunately you're in the enviable position of having an existing user base that knows all about the right-click menu. They'll find it and use it.
  3. "Standard web standards" are constantly being redefined. As more applications and more diverse applications are going web-native, folks are discovering and defining what is possible on the web. Here's a SO question from 2009 that decided unequivocally that right-click was no good. Today, in 2015, the landscape looks very different. People are more used to full-screen web apps that have their own interaction paradigms. This is especially true with expert or niche audiences.

I haven't seen any web apps using right-click menus. First of all, they are hidden and most users won't think to right-click. Add an element and click on it for interactions.

See this for example on something similar you are doing on a grid http://mleibman.github.io/SlickGrid/examples/example-plugin-headermenu.html

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