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Scenario

I am desgining a desktop application where the user selects a list of items and then performs operations on the items together.

One of the pages in the application allows the user to select this items from a storage that may contain thousands of items. In the storage the items are stored in a small number of folders (up to 20 folders). Each item relates to several "points of interest". There are lots of points of interest and each item may relate to just a few of them, or lots of them. Some points of interest may be related by more than one item. So to summarize the data and the relations:

  • One-to-Many relation between a folder and items
  • Many-to-Many relations between items and points of interests
  • Many-to-Many relations beteen folders and points of interest (not directly, but through the items).

The purpose of the page is to allow the user to select a list of items, while filtering by folders, and by points of interest. The user should be able to select folders, and then points of interest that are relevant to the selected folders only, and then select items. Another selection method is to first select points of interest, then select folders (only folders that relate to the points of intereset) and then select items. The selected items will then appear on a different panel.

Question

The specific problem is how to create a user experience that lets you easily filter items by folders and points of interest, in any order. The user may want to first select folders, and then points of interest (but only those that are at all relevant to the selected folders), or the other way around. What's an easy and clear UI for such requirements?

  • quick question: at the end of the process, the goal is to filter down to perform actions on the items themselves, correct? Not the folders. Do I have that right? The folders just happened to be containers. – Mike M Jul 12 '17 at 1:17
  • Yes, that's correct – Kobi Hari Jul 26 '17 at 13:18
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Give users options to view a tree of folders, or a flat list. Allow selection for batch actions in a view that makes sense for their context.

The folders as I understand your situation are containers. No item is associated with more than one folder.

1. Allow your users to build queries, perhaps even save a query

This will allow them to save workflows they can come back to. They can structure queries to search by folders, interest items, or strings.

2. Allow view options if folder context is important to preserve.

mockup

download bmml source – Wireframes created with Balsamiq Mockups

  • Thanks, Mike. The only problem I see here is the seperation between the folders. In the end results, the users would not want to see the items seperated by folders, but rather in a single list and select from it. Also, there may be 10's of points of interest per item so I am not sure that presenting a column with the POIs is practical and usable. – Kobi Hari Jul 26 '17 at 13:21
  • I see...But would the flattened list option below relieve that? That way you have the single list view. I know that it does give repetition to the folder as a column to the right, but my angle on that would be some redundancy if needed keeps the folder relationship. One option could be that the folder isn't its own separate column, but more like a subtle 'tag' after the filename. – Mike M Jul 26 '17 at 13:53
  • The flatten list indeed solves the issue with the folder, but the problem remains with the points of interest. where the user is expected to work with a lot of them, and so it is not practical to present the points of interest of each item in another column – Kobi Hari Jul 26 '17 at 17:22

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