Let’s imagine a user uses a cloud service (for example Google Drive) for:

  1. Only backing up his data
  2. Accessing files from different locations and different devices
  3. To expand the storage capacity of his mobile devices such as phone and tablet

And he uses the Pocket mobile app for:

  1. For keeping the links
  2. Creating visual bookmarks
  3. Sharing links in the future with friends and other apps.

Question begins here

Today, I had the discussion with my team and they ask me to create a unified view where user can see both things together in a single window. They have presented the idea that we can treat a file stored in the cloud as link. Can we?

I wasn’t satisfied with the idea because as a user I always see the files and web link as two separate entity. I don’t know the reason but I was quite confident about that but I didn’t have reason to defend myself.


Let’s assume for a while if I we can treat them as a similar entity then – Would it be too much for the user to view the files and folders along with links? I think google file system display files in the similar fashion as windows and mac does. Even though the organization of the files and folder are pretty messy (local and cloud) but still user is still able to find the desired files …. In other post

  • 1
    But all you have to a file stored in the cloud is a link. Two links to the same file are exactly that.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 14:35
  • @Blam Thanks for the reply. I just wanted to ask one question if you say the file in the cloud, is actually a link and a link of any website (youtube , blog or anything else) are same then how would you represent them visually. A file as link or link as a file ?
    – B L Λ C K
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 9:48

1 Answer 1


The issue you seem to be running into is whether you should treat a local sync of some cloud content as separate from the cloud content. Yes, from an engineering perspective cloud content is a link, but that isn't how most non-technical users see it.

To draw a more common parallel, let's consider email. Many users have a gmail account for their email, but they use an IMAP service to sync it to their local machine's mail program. You in essence have a local copy, and a cloud copy of every email. Most users won't think of them as completely separate items, but rather simply that their mailbox is either synced or not.

As another example, consider Dropbox. I have all my cloud content synced on my local machine, but I don't think of them as separate. I take it as a given that the syncing is working and all I have to worry about is whether they are synced or not.

My suggestion given the limited information in the question is to consider them as the same thing, and simply mark items somehow as either synced or not. Dropbox handle this well, and I would suggest you follow their example.

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  • Thank for the kind reply and I am really sorry if I wasn't able to explain you my question properly. ---- Here, In cloud storage, let say dropbox, you have a folder which contains some files, would you perceive the folder or file as link or just folder and file. Moreover, imagine you have ability to store links, like pocket, in your dropbox then how would you perceive them. Would you perceive files, folders and links as different entity or same? If same then don't you think if would be difficult to show them visually since user won't be differentiate between them.
    – B L Λ C K
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 9:56
  • @Blyk in most operating systems, links to files are treated as if they were files. Look up symlinks for nix based systems or shortcuts for windows. The point is that the underlying technology shouldn't determine how something is presented to a user, but rather based on the interaction model that will be most usable. So in my opinion (given my limited knowledge of your case), you should treat a link to a file as a file, not as a link. You could mark it as a linked file though. If you want to discuss it more, ping me in chat.
    – JohnGB
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 10:21
  • Thank you so much. Your reply is really helpful. As a UX designer I had the same intuition but I thought I should ask the experience designers so I came here. Thanks again. I think I should wait here for some more reply to know others opinion.
    – B L Λ C K
    Commented Jan 30, 2015 at 11:00

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