I find that double click is a great gesture that could be successfully used in graphical interfaces but for some reason has negative connotation on the web. Should it be avoided at all costs?

  • 1
    When you say "online", do you mean "in a browser-based application"? May 23, 2011 at 3:27
  • Yes, browser-based applications as opposed to desktop applications.
    – Denzo
    May 23, 2011 at 5:40
  • 4
    thanks. To me, "online" still means "not using punch cards" May 23, 2011 at 6:10
  • In What context are you thinking? Can you give an example?
    – Möoz
    May 23, 2011 at 7:42
  • 1
    Double click to edit an item or double click to go into an item or double click to show an item menu. It is for an online application which allows you to create layouts.
    – Denzo
    May 23, 2011 at 7:53

16 Answers 16


I think it would be okay for certain uses, particularly if you're considering having an object draggable or highlightable on a single click, then on a double click it could be openned. However I would strongly avoid anchor tags being doubleclicked, or anything that only responds to a double click.

  • 2
    +1 I recently created an internal web app which uses this strategy. I would be very hesitant to make a public-facing website where double-clicks were required.
    – jessegavin
    May 23, 2011 at 14:33

Double-clicking on the web should be avoided because it goes against the general practice of single-clicking links, and would likely be confusing.

Jacob Nielsen says it best:

...double-click must die since it causes novice users great difficulties and since it conflicts with the single-click interaction style of the Web

If your application does a good job of emulating an operating system double-clicking might be a consideration, but even then I don't think it would be worth the potential downsides.

  • 3
    + Double click is windows, there are other OS you know... and yes, beginners have a hard time doubleclicking. I have a hard time doubleclicking with my left hand... it's hard. May 25, 2011 at 11:29
  • 5
    While I find Jacob Nielsen to be quite extraordinary, and have some amazingly informative resources, I don't see him as the be-all and end-all of usability decisions. Especially when he's being quoted from something he wrote 15 years ago. Much of his popular standpoints on usability were written before AJAX was a thing. Although much of the basics will always be true, some of his User Experience "decrees" are simply outdated. I believe this is one of them.
    – zzzzBov
    Mar 17, 2012 at 4:56
  • I do not see how AJAX might change how people expect to click on buttons and links online. It has more to do with what happens after a user clicks. I stand by my statement, and only used Nielsen as a way to back up my opinion. Of course every UX question is going to be answered with "it depends," but that shouldn't stop us from creating best practices.
    – bendur
    Mar 30, 2012 at 4:31
  • AJAX is merely the online version of a UI process which has existed in desktop applications for many years previously.
    – Mazatec
    Nov 12, 2012 at 11:59

I think it's more about maintaining conventions and user's general knowledge of those conventions than anything else. Browser/website interaction has been fundamentally different to OS user interface interaction since basically the dawn of the browser.

In native UI's the convention has been to have a solid, non-clickable window area with UI elements akin to physical buttons, check boxes and such. Hovering may highlight an item, but is used mostly on button hover states and other minor hints. Most hover reactions merely change the cursor to something to indicate a different action may take place, such as the text caret cursor. The double click is synonymous with opening something, a file, a window from a menu item and such.

Website interaction is more like a giant wad of text. Double clicking typically selects a paragraph or line of text and html content, akin to a text editor. Clicking usually means a change in the webpage, either through hyper links or form submit buttons. Hovering therefore has been used to show the responsiveness to clicking of different elements on screen. Hyper links, drop down menus, buttons, etc.

I think it would be unwise from a user experience point of view to try to override the double click behaviour of the browser, however useful you might find the idea.

(edit) That is until your web application becomes so akin to a desktop app that it warrants the need for double click to be used. Google Docs Spreadsheets is a good example of where it's absolutely intuitive for the most part that double click would perform cell based interactions, just like Microsoft Excel and iWork's Numbers do. I forgot to take these into account in my initial answer, but I believe that if the user interaction is such that the UI feels like a desktop application in the way the UI responds to the mouse, then absolutely.

  • 1
    Plus for noting, that double clicking in browser usually causes text selection. It's very annoying to have all labels selected after failed double-click.
    – user5558
    May 23, 2011 at 7:19
  • 2
    I agree with the first paragraph, but not as much with the rest. As enterprises are moving complex business applications to the web many desktop features are coming along with them. With the paradigms merging, the existence of browser chrome can't always be used to define behaviors.
    – Jim Rush
    May 23, 2011 at 12:04
  • I totally forgot about them in my initial answer. See the edit. May 23, 2011 at 22:06

Double click is best used as a "nice to have" feature where users do not have to rely on it to use the application.

  • 7
    +1. Google maps uses double click to zoom in, but it is not the only way to zoom in. May 23, 2011 at 14:55

Avoidance -vs- Inappropriate?

It's not that double-click should be avoided. It's simply that it has a narrow band of appropriate usage. There is a distinct difference between the two.

An interaction that should be avoided is one where alternatives should be actively sought out to avoid using it, such as with flash banner ads and blinking text.

An interaction that has narrow usage, is one that is useful in very specific niche circumstances. Take for example the oft frowned upon popup window. The use case is where a user explicitly wants to open a new window of specific contents. This is often done as a popout such as in Gmail.

So where does that leave us with double-click?

A double-click can be used to trigger a secondary action that doesn't conflict with the primary action caused by a single click.

I'd take a wild guess that everyone participating in this particular question uses double-click on websites regularly, possibly without even realizing it.

The first example I'll give is native to the browser:

Text Selection: If you want to select a single word, you double-click on it and it gets highlighted. As far as implementation goes, many web-based wysiwyg editors override the browser's default text editing capabilities, and might need to re-implement this particular feature to work correctly.

I do the second unconsciously:

Full Screen: Go to any video on YouTube and double-click the middle of it. What happens? The video goes full-screen. It's not just YouTube, any video player worth its salt online will use double-click to full-screen the video. You might even notice that the first click pauses the video, and the second click un-pauses the video. The interruption is accepted because the video is changing size.

An application where double-click would make sense would be in grouped item selection. If you wanted to select one item, you could click once. If you wanted to select a bunch of items of the same type, you could double-click.


I too think it to be unwise in anything but a custom, backend system where you can actually 'train' users if you will.

When trying to implement it "into the wild" (publicly accessible web sites) you will quickly find out how many novice computer users think all clicks should be double clicks. For the users who understand the difference between clicks and doubel clicks you will face issues simply because the idea of double clicking for functionality

  • Users double clicking everything is a good point. I'd be wary about the internal system case, having to train users to do something contrary to their normal behaviour generally isn't a good idea. May 23, 2011 at 9:10

In my opinion, double-click should be avoided everywhere, not just on the Web, because people who are just beginning to learn how to use a computer sometimes double-click too slowly, causing two single clicks to be triggered in the code.

If you really need to use double-click, try to make it obvious that double-click can be used, for example, by showing a popup saying what the user can do, the first time the user uses your application.

Just my two cents. Ad@m


Well, I'm not sure whether this is relevant to you, but I think think that double-clicking is a problem for iPhone users. If I'm correct, double clicks are not supported for iPhones.


I think a double click gesture might be handy as an expert or learned behaviour in an online application so long as its implementation did not screw up the experience for single clicking novices....


Double Clicking is not very intuitive for a lot of users these days. Not to mention in the coming generations. It the world of touch devices, single taps are also more intuitive than double taps.

However, double-clicking or double-tapping is a fantastic feature for power users. Image a time where you have a user that needs to access a secondary action. You could take them into some horrific secondary menu or toolbar. A double click/tap could be a major improvement, efficiency-wise, in the context of an interface.

The question you need to ask is "What is the most intuitive step for the user to take?". If that is a double click/tap, then go for it!


TiddlyWiki is for example a javasript Web App with double-click editing and keyboard shortcuts. It is widely accepted. So im not sticking with the one-click mantra here. Of course on simple web pages one should keep with it, but on web apps this rule of thumb doesnt make much sense to me.

It depends pretty much on the type of web app, is it orientated to the mass (e.g. nytimes app) or too small group because of its content/functionality (tiddly wiki)

Firefox is my standard browser because with mouse gestures and Tab click action editing i save alot of time. one click mantra sounds like a contradiction to me. As Einstein said "as simple as possible, but not simpler"


I had an experience where i instinctively tried to double click a link. When I was reading the docs for (Backbone.js and was browsing examples. I clicked the example links in the menu to the left and the page scrolled automaticaly to the example. But when I wanted to visit the example directly i instinctively double clicked the link in the menu, expecting to be transported of site to the example page.


The main problem with double clicks in a web app is that you will have to create special code to handle this on touch enabled devices.

You can tie together touches with clicks and touch move with drag but you will have a hard time connecting a double tap with a double click.

Drag and drop and regular click is easier to implement - https://mobiforge.com/design-development/touch-friendly-drag-and-drop

If your application is browser based, it will still be accessed on tablets and smartphones. Also, don't forget touch displays for PCs are on the rise.

If you want your application to have a friendly UI across devices maybe it's best to stay away from double click, or you will have to create different functionality for the various devices.


Correct me if i'm wrong, but the first thing I thought of was that if you use double-clicks, you'll probably have to let the system wait for a tiny bit after any single-click in anticipation of a double-click (assuming the single click performs an action, not just a highlight), which will create a general perception of slowness while using the system.


The only problem I see with double clicks on a web page is that users may not try it.

Because of the conventions out there, people don't expect double click to do anything.

That said, double-click could be a good tool for your expert users, but you'll have to let them know that they can use it.


On my side sometimes I recommend double click for some expert actions in browser-based applications. (The main flow is fully visible, under several single clicks) It's only a nice to have most of all the time. But sometimes it's a real gain for expert users.

  • How do you indicate to the user that an action is accomplished by a double click instead of a single?
    – Mayo
    Jul 7, 2017 at 15:52

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