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I continue to hear drag and drop can be a bad user experience when dragging to reorder over long distances, such as within a list and when scrolling to the target location is required.

Are there any research studies or information to support that users have problems with drag and drop.

  • I think test results will differ a lot per platform and input device. Are you looking for something particular? – jazZRo Aug 16 '15 at 11:23
  • That may be the case. I really looking for anything. However I'm unable to find even some research on drag and drop. Let's just say for the sake of clarity I'm looking for research on desktop drag and drop using any browser. – Mark Aug 16 '15 at 13:40
  • If you can't find any published findings, try running a few informal tests yourself. Have a few people in your office, your friends, neighbors at the bar try dragging things around in a long list. That should show you what you want to know. – Ken Mohnkern Aug 17 '15 at 21:13
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In the scenario you are proposing (drag and drop items from a long list), several factors must be taken into account. Every factor might present potential hurdles to the user.

  • On screen real estate: is the target easy to reach? Check Fitt's Law. List item size.
  • Unwanted scrolling: when reaching the bottom of the screen, the screen will start scrolling which makes the target destination a moving one, adding even more difficulty to perform the task.
  • User dexterity: the ability to keep the device (mouse or screen) active (pressed down / tapped / whatever) while scrolling.

So no, besides Fitt's Law, I can't reference any research about it. But what I mentioned above hints that it will not be an easy task.


Edit: I want to make special emphasis in the user dexterity factor, since most designers tend to overlook the fact that many users have some kind of disability to some degree. We need to give the users tools as easy to use as possible.

We often rely in some conventions/patterns/widgets without even asking ourselves if they are really ok to use. There are scenarios where some behaviour like continuous scrolling will be actually helpful (tumblr feed), but there will be others where it will be outright wrong (almost every other use :-P ).

In the case of drag&drop list, until I see a widget that feels comfortable, I totally discourage its use.

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A quick example of one of the possible problems -

Suppose, you have a long list or say a visual from editor where all the sections are not being covered on the screen on current resolution of the system, then it will be difficult for the users to select a particular section and reorder them. Specially, when one will realize or need to scroll the mouse along with drag when operating the application.

  • Thank you for your answer. I am aware of the scenario you mentioned. The question is more about identifying sources of research or articles to support the fact that users have problems. – Mark Aug 15 '15 at 18:49

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