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A key feature of our product (which creates legal documents for companies) is our data room, which stores their corporate documents.

The data room has a large directory of pre-existing folders that can't be deleted - so when our product generates a document it goes to the right place. The user can also create their own folders and upload documents wherever they want to drop them.

Certain actions the user can take require providing documentation, which they can upload from their computer or pick from the data room.

Since we know what kind of document is needed, it could be tempting to simply let the user pick from a certain folder - (let's say they need to provide a board consent, any board consents we generate will be in Home > Corporate Governance > Board Consents>) But if the user created their own folder or uploaded a board consent into another folder, it would be a frustrating experience for them not to be able to pick that document.

On the other hand, it feels weird to make the user navigate their whole data-room file structure to find a document that we often know where it is.

I'm not sure how robust-vs-simple to make the document selection modal. I'm sure there has to be good patterns for this beyond Google Drive. Any suggestions?

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You'll want to figure out if your users are expecting to search or browse and design accordingly.

If a user knows a document exists and is likely to be the one they need, they are in "search-mode". Any interface you can build that facilitates finding a specific document as quickly as possible will be useful. It could be search boxes for file name, filters for extensions, putting user created folders at the top of a list, or it could be making a category for recently uploaded or previously used files.

On the other hand, if your user might not know what their options are or if any of the docs meet their needs, they are in "browse-mode". This kind of interface should facilitate looking at many documents quickly to see if any of them are the right one because the user may or may not know what to search for. Even if they do, they won't know if they have the right doc if they've never seen it before or don't remember it. This interface would want fast document previews, a larger table with more metadata on each file, or suggestions of likely matches.

There are differences between these two approaches, but also a lot of overlap. Most interfaces try to split the difference and allow users to browse and search, but the result can be a more complicated UI than is required. Even if you have a mix of both use cases, you should try to pick one to prioritize. Scrolling to the end of a long file list and using the file at the end is probably fine for a browsing user, but very annoying for a searching user.

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