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Native and custom drop downs used in forms provoke a variety of feelings from UX designers and web designers.

I would love to hear your thoughts, and pros and cons of either.

Personally I like custom drop downs for desktop and tablet, due to space. But then when the UI responds on mobile it reverts to native, allowing the user to interact with the native browser control.

Are there any best practices when considering either custom or native, across platforms.

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I would use native components as much as possible and then work the rest of my style around what is already understood and known to perform well on the given platform.

1. Make sure a drop down is really necessary

The main problem with using a drop down control is that data is hidden until the user interacts with it. This may not be avoided when you have a variable sized list of choices and limited space. Just make sure that there really are no other options before using this control.

2. Native drop down performs better

When using a native drop down you are trading simplicity and speed for flexibility and control. I almost always opt for speed and simplicity over the ability to add little flag icons to a drop down that looks and behaves the same regardless of device it's on.

Try adding dynamic labels/images outside of the drop down itself that update after a selection is made. Although you are limited to text only choices in the drop down it should work as fast as it can regardless of platform.

3. Custom drop down is a new interaction that needs testing

There may still be cases when you need some sort of custom drop down that allows multiple selections on every device or that dynamically changes based on other settings. In these cases the control is no longer a familiar thing that users have interacted with before. This is another reason that using native controls as much as possible is usually safer (even if a little uglier)

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    awesome answer. especially #1. Drop-downs hide content and increase the amount of finger labor required to make a simple selection.
    – sova
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 16:17

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