So here is the situation. I am designing a content management system that handles content for Publishers (Books, Journals, Magazines etc.).

Here are the steps the user will take in my CMS:

  1. User clicks on "Create New Book" option
  2. The user fills out basic information with regard to the book - Name, Author/s, Category, Fonts, InDesign Master files etc
  3. Next, the user is required to create chapters. Now according to my CMS, each chapter is just another file/ folder structure. But in the UI, the files are categorized into tabs - Art, Manuscript, Specs, Misc.

Here is the problem, if the user is only uploading one chapter, then he can just choose the different tabs he wants to upload the files to like so:

Note: This is just a representation and not the actual UI But this is going to become tedious for larger books with hundreds of chapters. Is there a better way to tackle this problem?

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You can checkout Udemy's bulk upload feature for videos. There's not a lot of overlap specific to your use case, however you can take some ideas from it.

Some ideas -

  • Try to allow the user dump all folders at one go. If your chapters are in folders, you can programmatically categorize them into chapters of the same order.
  • If a font file is inside a folder, see if you can automatically identify it and categorize as a font for that chapter. Similarly you can try this with your master Indesign files. You can discard upload of unsupported files so users don't end up uploading junk.
  • Try and pull out the common elements. For example, if a font is common across all the chapters then you might not want a dedicated tab for fonts in each chapter. Instead you still want to support it, you can have it as an additional overflow option that says "Add a different font for this chapter" or something on those lines
  • I would highly highly recommend supporting Google Drive or Dropbox or both for file sync alternatively. This is because the upload speeds offered by these parties are way way better and its less likely you can match up to it.
  • Avoid navigating levels to make any edits to the content. For example if you can change the names of the chapters at the first window itself that would be handy.

But these are just ideas. What would inform you of the best way to go would be your research. I would recommend doing step by step journey map first so you can iterate and optimize on your ideas and take informed decisions. Taking a look at your competitors might help.

  • 1
    Allowing the user to create the folder structure and upload the entire structure is a great idea for streamlining this process. You could even go further and allow users to download an example folder structure that they can use as a template. – Franchesca Sep 14 at 9:53
  • Thanks, Aswin. Problem with my specific use case is that I have no idea what formats will be uploaded. Chapters can be pdf or doc or docx or even lib file types. Fonts can be ttf, otf, svgs or woff. And I don't know if a docx is a spec document or a manuscript document. – Chemicalinck Sep 14 at 12:52
  • @Franchesca - These are publishers with legacy folder structures. Each publisher would have a different file/ folder structure that they have used. Asking them to stick to a template might still require them to do a lot of work. Im trying to achieve minimal level of work to be done in order to segregate their content. – Chemicalinck Sep 14 at 12:55
  • @Chemicalinck Ah, legacy systems, the bane of software engineers! If there is a commonality to these legacy structures you could import it heuristically as a best effort thing, and then let the user "fix" it in your interface. The MS Excel text import feature is a nice example of something that allows users to specify some information on how to import information. – Franchesca Sep 14 at 14:26
  • @Chemicalinck You do have an option to check form an array of file formats and check the one that matches. If that's getting very complex for you - you can have boxes for each file type after upload that users can drop the relevant file into. Else you can also do this with dropdowns next to each file. Dropdown -> Master File / Dropdown -> Font file. You can even prefil this with some logic. – Aswin Sep 15 at 9:35

Your app shouldn't make users do all this work to upload files. It should just give users a simple familiar file uploader and then help users do all that work IN the app.

To put it lightly, this UI is making users do a lot. If any users don't fully understand what this tool does, what all the buttons do, etc., this uploader ui will stop users in their tracks. The UI is forcing users to figure out how to make their files fit in your system so they have to figure out your system.

A better solution for both you and your users is to give users a simple bulk file uploader that requires nothing of the users other than the right file types. Then show the users their files in your system using an editable data table and help them arrange their file in your system.

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