I'm desiging an interface where file relations are a bit complicated and I could really use some help on how to visualize them.

Basically, it's a programme where you can change different kinds of parameters of trains. The problem is that one train file contains loads of other files (speed etc.), and these files can also be part of other trains. How can I show the relation that one file is part of two or more trains?

Many Thanks, Hannah

  • 1
    Hello Hannah, and welcome to UX.SE. This sounds like an interesting question, but it might help if you can include any designs or mockups you can share with us. If so, feel free to edit your question to include these. Besides that, it sounds like these "files" are more like "properties" of the trains—is it important that these "properties" (like speed) be represented to the user as being shared between multiple trains? If so, why does the user need to know that these two train objects share the same speed file? Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 15:31
  • I think a screenshot can definitely help with providing some suggestions here. As the question stands it is a little bit difficult to understand how to best design the interface to show this relationship.
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Jun 29, 2020 at 2:11

1 Answer 1


The term "file" is confusing to me here. On a filesystem, for example, a file doesn't usually 'have' another file.

If we instead treat these as "entities", we can use entity-relationship diagrams, which are a common way in the software world to describe the relationship of entities.

Entities are quite abstract, but they could be used for the items you described, like "train" or (maybe) "speed".

Here, we can show a "one-to-many" or "many-to-many" relationship visually. In your specific use case, the users may not understand this specific diagram, but perhaps it can be used as a starting point.

  • 1
    Thank you for your reply. You are correct, it is more like entities (which are files) that contain components (other files). What i meant is how to make someting interactive in the interface that shows that one component (or entity) is part of another entity. At the moment, im thinking some sort of hierarchical tab system, like two rows of tabs, but im really stuck here.
    – Hannah
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 8:30

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