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I am working on a product that has a built in asset library. The goal is to access tons of objects in one place in a way our competitors haven’t done well. The tricky part is, there are a) about 2000 objects everyone has free access to; b) a smaller amount of purchasable assets; c) private assets that you upload and only you have access to. All objects are searchable by tag/keyword or name.

We want everyone to feel ownership of the free assets as well as their own uploads and we want to encourage purchases. We also want the library to be fast and easy to use, search and select items. What is the proper way to organize a library with these 3 types of content, and should the upload function live inside the library or on its own? Tabs? Filters? 2 libraries?

A couple things we’ve tried but can’t agree on as a team: Tabs for Library (built in free and purchasables), Favorites (anything starred), Uploads (anything uploaded by the user)

  • the concern is that we are splitting up objects and the user should be able to search “tree” and see all trees, regardless of source or location.
  • Another concern is that an Uploads tab might encourage a user to live in that tab and use only their own material, missing out on our free assets and we miss out on their potential purchases

Additional filters that would filter “my uploads” or “free” etc. from the singular library area.

  • a concern is that this puts thousands of assets in one list and puts the burden on user using filters to find what they need
  • Another concern is a user might not understand their personal uploads getting compiled into the larger library. Indicating public vs private seems like excessive ui components

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In the question, you mention three different libraries when there are actually two:

  1. General assets library (free or paid)
  2. Personal assets library

If a user has uploaded material to the site, it's logical they have a user created. Once inside the site, they can access their personal profile to view their own library or content.

With this, one of the problems is solved since it's not necessary to mix private content with the general one.

Regarding free and paid content, most resource sites solve this with a paid section with horizontal scrolling or a View More button, usually at the top, and the rest of the content occupying the entire page with vertical scrolling.

Did you have a look at unsplash.com or pixabay.com? All the problems you raise in your question are solved and in a good way.

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