Right-Click Actions in Web Applications (Enterprise)

10 Feb 2009 - 4:01pm
5 years ago
21 replies
6348 reads
Mike Long
2007

My gut tells me right-click actions in browser-based applications are
unconventional and should not be introduced (and if it is already
introduced, should be removed). I also feel even though the
application is for the "enterprise", this is a moot point because
in the end it is still a browser-based application.

What are your thoughts on right-click actions in web applications?

What about specifically for "enterprise" applications? Should there
even be a difference?

Comments

10 Feb 2009 - 4:25pm
Gregor Kiddie
2008

Well, we are creating the next version of a widely used piece of desktop
software, so the users who will be migrating across to it will expect
the same right click interactions they had in the desktop version.

I do not think this is an isolated experience for people who are used to
desktop applications, and I do not believe the method of delivery, via
the browser, should change that experience.

Gk.

(At some point, I'll remember that hitting reply only sends it to the
poster, not the whole list! Sorry Michael!)

Gregor Kiddie
Senior Developer
INPS

Tel: 01382 564343

Registered address: The Bread Factory, 1a Broughton Street, London SW8
3QJ

Registered Number: 1788577

Registered in the UK

Visit our Internet Web site at www.inps.co.uk

The information in this internet email is confidential and is intended
solely for the addressee. Access, copying or re-use of information in it
by anyone else is not authorised. Any views or opinions presented are
solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of
INPS or any of its affiliates. If you are not the intended recipient
please contact is.helpdesk at inps.co.uk

10 Feb 2009 - 4:42pm
Vishal Subraman...
2005

I would generally avoid right clicks on the web, even for enterprise tools.
Why make the user right click when contextual menus can be shown on a
'regular/ left' click? If you have multiple actions- use the hover/mouse
over state to differentiate.

--
-Vishal
http://www.vishaliyer.com

On Tue, Feb 10, 2009 at 4:25 PM, Gregor Kiddie <gkiddie at inpses.co.uk> wrote:

> Well, we are creating the next version of a widely used piece of desktop
> software, so the users who will be migrating across to it will expect
> the same right click interactions they had in the desktop version.
>
> I do not think this is an isolated experience for people who are used to
> desktop applications, and I do not believe the method of delivery, via
> the browser, should change that experience.
>
> Gk.
>
> (At some point, I'll remember that hitting reply only sends it to the
> poster, not the whole list! Sorry Michael!)
>
> Gregor Kiddie
> Senior Developer
> INPS
>
> Tel: 01382 564343
>
> Registered address: The Bread Factory, 1a Broughton Street, London SW8
> 3QJ
>
> Registered Number: 1788577
>
> Registered in the UK
>
> Visit our Internet Web site at www.inps.co.uk
>
> The information in this internet email is confidential and is intended
> solely for the addressee. Access, copying or re-use of information in it
> by anyone else is not authorised. Any views or opinions presented are
> solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of
> INPS or any of its affiliates. If you are not the intended recipient
> please contact is.helpdesk at inps.co.uk
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

10 Feb 2009 - 5:04pm
Sarah Kampman
2008

We've actually just removed all custom right-click menus from our
web-based enterprise software, as a result of surveys and usability
tests demonstrating that the majority of our users didn't even know that
the right-click menus existed. We're not talking casual users, either:
nearly all of them are trained and have been using our software for 5+
years.

It's important to note that our software is neither the web-version of a
desktop application, nor did we use right-click menus in enough places
to accustom our users to trying out their right mouse button. If either
of these had been true (or if we expected to introduce a consistent set
of right-click menus throughout the app), the right-click menus might
have made more sense. However, for our users and usage patterns, the
better option was to make these functions visible in the UI.

-Sarah Kampman

-----Original Message-----
My gut tells me right-click actions in browser-based applications are
unconventional and should not be introduced (and if it is already
introduced, should be removed). I also feel even though the
application is for the "enterprise", this is a moot point because
in the end it is still a browser-based application.

What are your thoughts on right-click actions in web applications?

What about specifically for "enterprise" applications? Should there
even be a difference?

10 Feb 2009 - 5:13pm
Shimone Samuel
2009

Although less destructive, offering web users right click is like
offering them keyboard shortcuts: you're counting on them to
interact with your website uncommonly. While you may find a few power
users who appreciate the enhancement, far fewer users will notice such
a feature in the same way they might notice Search, RSS, or Contact
for instance.

With that said, right-click in a browser-based applications has
potential if:

a) it does not contain essential interactivity
b) is clearly communicated to the user
c) is available by other means (e.g. button, hyperlink)

Adding enterprise to the equation is a bit different as that is an
acutely targeted demographic. If the application is built for a
specific company, the company has the option to educate their users
directly.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38441

10 Feb 2009 - 5:29pm
AlinutzaV
2009

Google Docs has right click!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38441

10 Feb 2009 - 6:54pm
Todd Warfel
2003

Because right click is a common and known action for applications.
We've seen it and used it a number of times in RIA and web-based
applications. In fact, we've seen participants look for it in web-
based applications that look more like desktop applications. They
actually start looking for desktop behavior.

On Feb 10, 2009, at 4:42 PM, Vishal Iyer wrote:

> I would generally avoid right clicks on the web, even for enterprise
> tools.
> Why make the user right click when contextual menus can be shown on a
> 'regular/ left' click? If you have multiple actions- use the hover/
> mouse
> over state to differentiate.
>
> --
> -Vishal
> http://www.vishaliyer.com

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
Twitter: zakiwarfel
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

10 Feb 2009 - 7:07pm
Andrew Jaswa
2008

What is this "right click" thing you speak of?

I guess you haven't considered folks that use a left handed mouse
where clicking the right button fires the primary click action. But
that's cool, I'll start using the term "left click" to mean secendary
click actions. That'll confuse you.

Southpaw,

Andrew

On Feb 10, 2009, at 14:29, Alina <alina at iterating.net> wrote:

> Google Docs has right click!
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38441
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

10 Feb 2009 - 8:28pm
Ted Kilian
2009

I agree with the point Todd made. As distinctions between web and
desktop breakdown, conventions are going to merge as well. We
recently did some user testing for a web app that did not yet have
contextual menu options and found that most of our participants were
right-clicking to do common actions you would expect in desktop apps.

Does your application look and feel more like a website or a desktop
application? Users will pick up the visual language and behave
accordingly. If it looks like an app, many people will expect it to
behave like one (hence Google docs).

I don't think context menus are particularly uncommon, but they are
a shortcut. One rule I always go by, if a function is in a contextual
menu it also has to be available somewhere else as well.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38441

10 Feb 2009 - 10:04pm
Chauncey Wilson
2007

The context (or pop-up) or right-click (as a default) menu was originally
created to reduce the amount of movement that a user had to make to activate
a function that would operate on text or objects. If, for example, you were
creating a large drawing, you could select an object at the bottom of your
screen and operate on that object without moving to the pull-down menu or
toolbar at the top of the screen.
As others have noted, the context menu was considered a shortcut, but for
some applications like graphics programs or project management tools, the
context menu was actually the primary way to access common functions.

Context menus were probably more designed for expert users as an efficiency
aid. So, when using context menus with the Web, a web application, or a
software application, will those context menus actually reduce the effort?

One of the design principles for context menus was that only functions that
were available in the current context (e.g., a particular type of object was
selected) would be displayed - no disabled items, only active functions.
Over time, several variations of context menus started appearing:

1. The lean, efficient menu with no disabled functions
2. Context menus with a mix of enabled and disabled functions
3. Hybrid context menus where part of the menu was static because it
applied to many cases and another part that was dynamic.
4. Context menus with submenus

So, one question to ask when using context menus is whether they will
provide a more efficient user interface for an important sample of users.

I tested context menus in the 1980s when they were a new UI object and
helped write early specs and style guides that included context menus that
were activated by the secondary mouse button. The overriding goal was to
reduce physical work and improve efficiency.

Chauncey

On Tue, Feb 10, 2009 at 5:13 PM, Shimone Samuel <shimone at shimone.info>wrote:

> Although less destructive, offering web users right click is like
> offering them keyboard shortcuts: you're counting on them to
> interact with your website uncommonly. While you may find a few power
> users who appreciate the enhancement, far fewer users will notice such
> a feature in the same way they might notice Search, RSS, or Contact
> for instance.
>
> With that said, right-click in a browser-based applications has
> potential if:
>
> a) it does not contain essential interactivity
> b) is clearly communicated to the user
> c) is available by other means (e.g. button, hyperlink)
>
> Adding enterprise to the equation is a bit different as that is an
> acutely targeted demographic. If the application is built for a
> specific company, the company has the option to educate their users
> directly.
>
>
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> Posted from the new ixda.org
> http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38441
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

10 Feb 2009 - 7:59pm
bzang
2008

Another issue to consider is that right click is almost universally
unsupported on cellphones. For more intense interactions it may be
nice to have such capabilities as an added action, but I believe that
in most cases you would want to duplicate those features in a left
click accessible menu.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38441

10 Feb 2009 - 9:04pm
Christopher Jones
2009

Hi Michael,

As a designer I would not put any actions exclusively into contextual
menus accessed through right-clicks in a web app. However, as a user I
can say that I have been finding myself sometimes attempting to
right-click in web apps that I use. As browser-based apps begin to
feel more like desktop apps, I see the line blurring in my own use.

One particular web-based system that I use and am thinking of in this
context is Wufoo. This is a web-based form builder that allows
drag-and drop creation of forms (and more importantly has an
excellent management and processing system for forms). In this
environment I have sometimes attempted to right-click without
thinking about it.

My view may be counter to a lot of the other feedback, but moving
forward, as web apps become more sophisticated and similar to desktop
apps in look and feel, it may be beneficial to add right-click
contextual menus functionality. Although I would always provide more
traditional web-based options as well for the same actions.

Chris

Principal
Stellar Debris
chris at stellardebris.com

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38441

11 Feb 2009 - 4:42am
Roundand
2009

2009/2/10 Todd Zaki Warfel <lists at toddwarfel.com>

> Because right click is a common and known action for applications. We've
> seen it and used it a number of times in RIA and web-based applications. In
> fact, we've seen participants look for it in web-based applications that
> look more like desktop applications. They actually start looking for desktop
> behavior.
>

In support of your point - I'm currently using a CMS (Sitecore 6.0) which
has made a serious effort to create a desktop-in-the-browser, complete with
start button, task bar and Office2007-style menu strip, and the fact that
there is no button-2 menu on items in the content tree is surprisingly
frustrating, especially when the only existing way of triggering an action
on an item often requires you to select a new tab on the menu ribbon.

Francis.

11 Feb 2009 - 10:38am
Mike Myles
2009

I've worked on several browser based enterprise applications, and I
have seen reluctance from users in trying interaction they see as not
being something done in a browser (i.e. on a website). This includes
right-click as well as interactions like drag & drop and window
selection. Even when instructions were added to screens informing
uses of what could be done many would not try things they believed
didn't work "on the web."

When we took actions to disguise that fact that the application was
browser based - by removing the standard browser chrome (menus,
address bar, status bar, etc.) - users were more inclined to try
actions that are common rich client applications.

In short user expectation of browser capabilities strongly influenced
willingness to explore. However, the last I was involved in that was
two years ago.

There will always be a lag between the public's perception of
browser capabilities and the state of the current technology. But
with the recent advanced in web based applications like those from
Google I predict people will be expecting - even demanding more and
more rich client type behaviors in browser based applications. The
line between browser based and rich client applications is getting
blurrier all the time. Soon it will be gone all together, at least
from the end users point of view.

Long story short - right click menus are commonly used in many
complex applications and can be very effective. If there is good
cause to utilize them in an application then proceed, regardless of
the underlying technology.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38441

11 Feb 2009 - 12:49pm
Mike Long
2007

I am beginning to lean toward the idea that when designed properly,
context menus in RIAs can actually support productivity by providing
more immediate object manipulation. As Chauncey noted, it really
depends on your core audience.

In general, primary actions related to flow should be visible on the
UI surface (vs tucked-away). Also, decisions about custom actions in
context menus are informed by whether or not the browser's context
menu actually provides more useful actions for a specific object type
than a what custom context menu could provide.

Someone mentioned the training aspect as related to enterprise
applications. It seems to me that ease-of-use and learnability reduce
training requirements, which saves money. Learning an application that
relies on context menus (hidden functions) increases learning time.

Decisions about where and how to use context menus are informed by
whether a beginner-intermediate person can discover the context menu
functions and grok the intended usage patterns.

Thanks for the inspiration and guidance, all of you. I have the
various perspectives I need to move forward with some experiments.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38441

11 Feb 2009 - 5:31pm
Eugene Chen
2004

It may have to do with how "object oriented" the interface is.

I am currently working on a product with extensive drag and drop. The
users work with "tangible" objects - pictures and pages.

In user testing, we repeatedly (way more than I expected) see users
trying to right-click to look for additional functions. These are
casual consumer users.

My hypothesis would be that if an object is or appears selectable or
draggable, right-click might be more expected. It may just be that if
you are interacting with an object a lot with left-click at some point
you feel you want to try right-click. The other finger gets jealous.

Eugene
http://www.eugenechendesign.com
User Experience | Research, Strategy and Design

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38441

11 Feb 2009 - 10:58pm
ambroselittle
2008

I'm curious. The focus here seems to be on whether or not to use
alternate-click, with the primary concern being that it is not necessarily
discoverable.
What about other contextual command area approaches? There's the idea of
"smart tags" where you show an affordance when an object is selected that
invites people to click it and reveal contextual commands. There's the idea
of local contextual commands that automatically reveal when a thing is
selected somewhere near/around the thing, and there's the idea of a reserved
space in the interface for contextual commands to appear. Double-click to
reveal. Press and hold to reveal. There are maybe other ideas, too, no?

Are people thinking about these as alternatives to the alternate-click?

What was the thinking behind the single-button mouse? Why do Mac's now
support alt-clicking? Is it the best thing or is it just something that has
become commonplace? Was it a technological limitation that made us sort of
default to alt-click for these purposes?

Isn't the real question not so much whether or not you should support
alternate-clicking but rather what is the best way for my solution and
audience to access contextual commands (assuming you need them)?

--Ambrose

12 Feb 2009 - 8:44am
Mike Myles
2009

Ambrose,

The specific questions...

"What are your thoughts on right-click actions in web applications?
What about specifically for "enterprise" applications? Should there
even be a difference?"

Hence the focus on right-click in web apps in this discussion. But
alternate approaches to exposing features in context would also be an
interesting discussion worth having.

Right-click menus are extensively utilized, but there are other
options. I just worked on a project tasked with incorporating the
Office 2007 style Ribbon into an application. Contextual Ribbon tabs
are a major component of that.

What are the best / most innovative ways to expose features in
context?... Perhaps the subject for a new discussion thread.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38441

12 Feb 2009 - 8:53am
Todd Warfel
2003

On Feb 11, 2009, at 10:58 PM, J. Ambrose Little wrote:

> There are maybe other ideas, too, no?

Right click has been around for long, long time. It's one of the
better approaches because you can leverage pre-existing knowledge and
learned behavior. No need to reinvent the wheel.

> What was the thinking behind the single-button mouse?

Simplicity. And some arrogance.

> Why do Mac's now support alt-clicking? Is it the best thing or is
> it just something that has become commonplace? Was it a
> technological limitation that made us sort of default to alt-click
> for these purposes?

Mac's have had alt-click since the mouse was around. With the single
button mouse, you simply held down the CTL key and then clicked.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
Twitter: zakiwarfel
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

12 Feb 2009 - 8:59am
Todd Warfel
2003

On Feb 11, 2009, at 10:58 PM, J. Ambrose Little wrote:

> There's the idea of "smart tags" where you show an affordance when
> an object is selected that invites people to click it and reveal
> contextual commands. There's the idea of local contextual commands
> that automatically reveal when a thing is selected somewhere near/
> around the thing, and there's the idea of a reserved space in the
> interface for contextual commands to appear. Double-click to
> reveal. Press and hold to reveal. There are maybe other ideas,
> too, no?

Exploring alternate approaches is something I'd always advocate. You
never know when you might stumble upon a better one. However, I'd be
very cautious about taking actions that are currently used for other
behaviors and trying to use them for contextual menus—that's only
going to create confusion and a lack of predictability. And
predictability is an important part of usability.

For example double clicking is used to open/launch applications. Image
if that's now a contextual menu. Huh? And just showing up when someone
is near an object, well, now you have things popping up all over the
screen. We've tested that one—got really annoying really fast "How do
I turn that off?" Press and hold is worse than right-click. It's not
expected, not predictable, and takes more effort than right clicking.
You actually have to hold and for how long? We've tested that one too.

What have we found that works? Visual queues and hints. As someone
mouses over an object that has right-click abilities, we've used a
pale yellow highlight or other visual clue to hint that they could
right-click on it.

One word of caution: If you introduce right-click in one area, be
prepared to introduce it globally. It becomes expected.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
Twitter: zakiwarfel
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

12 Feb 2009 - 11:09am
ambroselittle
2008

Thanks, Todd and Mike, for the responses.
Mike, yes, the question was specific to right-click (and apparently there
are a lot of opinions just about that), but I was thinking that maybe it's a
case of going to the doctor and saying your ear is hurting but his
professional diagnosis suggests the root problem is something else and
recommends treating that. IOW, I don't think we should limit ourselves to
directly answering questions if zooming out and coming at it from a
different angle might offer a better solution. You may be right; it may
warrant a separate thread, though.

Todd, thanks for the specifics. That's what I was hoping to do--stimulate
discussion/thought around potential alternatives. Double-click--yeah,
that's really stretching, but it's one of those things where you kind of
think people will figure it out and once they do, is it any worse/better
than right-clicking. I kind of think that press and hold is about as
arbitrary as alt-click, except that alt-click is now established. Just
thinking/asking out loud if this is one of those cases where we've painted
ourselves into a hole or if there is good reasoning/science behind it.

Regarding Mac--I really, really like the mighty mouse--not having to
specifically click a button but simply "leaning" to one side to trigger a
click, and I like the multi-directional scroll ball. But I was surprised,
having not used a Mac except very infrequently until this last year, that
the alt-click is now fully supported by the mouse (even if more subtly) and
that the touchpad has a (nice) specific gesture for it. I don't know when
that was introduced, but my impression was that the Mac just had the single
button and required the key sequence to trigger the alternate.

So where I was going with that, albeit imprecisely, is wondering if this was
simply caving to a convention that was popularized by the PC mouse (I
presume!) or if they really found that this form of alt-clicking (i.e.,
pressing the "other" side of the mouse) was in fact something people want to
do naturally to discover contextual commands. Maybe it doesn't matter,
practically speaking, once something becomes so trained/ingrained, but I
guess if anyone could change things for the better (assuming there are
better alternatives) it'd be us, no?

-a

14 Feb 2009 - 3:35am
Alkin KORKMAZ
2008

I am generally very careful about functions of buttons and shortcuts;
and I use shortcuts too much. But I don't use right click in web
browsers because they are not well designed and well defined. They
don't give any extra ability and besides they do not rescue my time.

Though there are some nice things. For example "Send This Image"
under Firefox.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=38441

Syndicate content Get the feed