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What is a better user experience: to open the file or to open the folder the user chose when exporting a file?

I am exporting a .tsv (Excel-like) file from my app to a user directory. I gave a notification but it is an extra step to open the file and see. Should I open the directory the user choose for them, open the file they want to export. or none and just leave the app open with a notification.

they don't need to export more files and they likely want to work on the file just exported since it is the only function of that view.

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  • If you open the .tsv file for editing, can the user save changes that go into effect immediately, or do they have to import the edited file?
    – Izquierdo
    Mar 27 at 21:04
  • They have to import it. Mar 28 at 22:48

2 Answers 2

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My initial sense was to open the file and let the user start working on it, treating it like an editable table, but that implies that changes to the data will be made in real time, and that's not the case for your system.

Instead, because there's a formal import/export process, you should treat the .tsv like a file and open the containing folder (or give the user a shortcut to quickly open the folder, as we see with downloads in programs like Chrome and Slack). The user then has some orientation on where the file is located, for when they move or re-upload it later on.

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Standard export actions don't automatically open the file or folder on export. So keeping in line with usability heuristics #2 & 4 would suggest you don't do either.

However I'm a huge fan of browsers serving up Open Folder and Open File clicks in their downloads pane. If you're already serving an 'export complete' notification to your users, can you add open file and open folder links in there?

If you want to test this with some users you could get some conclusive results from doing a basic First Click Test. When doing a OneClick/FirstCLick test I always ask 3 questions:

  1. Where would you click to [export]?
  2. What would you expect to see after you click [answer to #1]? (Make them click prototype)
  3. How does this screen compare to what you expected to see?

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