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We have a web application for managing large numbers of digital files (referred to as assets). We have recently added the ability when you are browsing the files, or on a search results page, to be able to select individual assets and perform actions on them (the actions include things like updating their metadata, adding them to a collection, and even deleting them).

We are now trying to figure out how persistent the asset selection should be. For example:

  1. When you have multiple pages of assets should your selection be remembered between pages (or by the time they get to page 7 are users struggling to remember what is selected on page 1)?
  2. When you perform an action and you are returned to the page with all the assets should your selection be remembered?
  3. If you are on a browse page, select some assets, go to another unrelated part of the application, then go back to the browse page should your selection be remembered?

If anyone has examples of best practices, relevant studies or examples of applications that do this well that would be really helpful.

  • The gmail UI would make a good study of preserving selections. – edeverett Sep 1 '14 at 13:59
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Your entire scenario is quite similar to the "shopping cart" paradigm.

  1. I think ux-discovery applies here.

    Users should be able to discover functionality and information by visually exploring the interface, they should not be forced to recall information from memory.

    When buying items on Amazon, my shopping cart is always visible, and I can hover to see a list of the items in it.

  2. This one is a little more tricky, as it doesn't quite fit into the shopping cart paradigm. If the use case will generally involve performing different actions on the same set of assets then I would say yes, but if it is annoying for the user to every time deselect the assets when they go back to the page then I would say no. Usability testing with your target users should shed more light on which option is better. A good compromise might be to leave them selected, but make it super easy for the user to clear the selection (e.g. auto clear it somehow, or provide a clear selection button), or you can leave everything unselected and provide an option to restore the previous selections.

  3. In this scenario the user was in the middle of an operation with some assets, and got distracted or interrupted. They may want to continue where they left off, so are more likely to require their selections to be remembered than in point 2. If I select some items on Amazon and leave the site, they will still be in my cart when I go back there later.

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