Imagine that you're creating a presentation on an iPad. You want to create a presentation, add content to it, and rearrange it as needed. You have a catalog of content to choose from, sorted by category, accessible by left side slide out navigation. Aside from some of the obvious constraints, an important constraint to consider is that your users primarily navigate to content based on its location in the catalog, not by name.

Now, is better to:

A) Have the presentation you're currently working on open as a small column on the right side of your screen that you're able to drag and drop content onto? This column would persist through navigation until dismissed.

b) Navigate to content, and add it to your presentation (not visible) file picker style action? This action would be most similar to an "export" or "save as" type feature, where the location you're exporting the single presentation to is the presentation you're working on.

c) Open your presentation, and add content to it via a file picker side pane. Essentially the reverse of option A. You'd navigate to your content in the same way that you would for option A, but in a smaller, minimized view.

Any thoughts or ideas appreciated :)

  • I am a little confused. Are you create a flat sequential presentation, just like PowerPoint? I dont understand what is the use case for a "file picker style CTA"... is "file picker" intended to be used to find elements to add into presentation? If so, is are the elements grouped into 1 level category structure or multi level category structure N-levels deep?
    – Igorek
    Nov 5, 2015 at 20:37

5 Answers 5


This could work brilliantly with Split Screen!

Since the iPad has a fairly large screen, it is possible to have a Presentation on the one half and a File Manager/ Picker on the other half.

The drag and drop will be easy and intuitive to use. It's always satisfying to drag a file and drop it somewhere and receive a confirmation that it's dropped.

So, yes Choice A would be the right way to do, but you'll need to have a proper ratio among the File Picker section and the Presentation section according to Screen estate.


"A" (the drag and drop option) is probably the natural choice on a tablet with touch interface. Unless that arrangement is impractical for screen space reasons, it will probably be more pleasing for the users. (who are, presumably, using a tablet at least in part for that kind of experience)

  • Good point about using drag/drop as an inherent strength of the touch interface. From a navigational standpoint, do you think it would be confusing to have a drag target persist across different levels of navigation?
    – tryoung
    Jul 8, 2015 at 15:08

Your options seem to reduce down to the proportion of space allocated to finding and selecting the content compared to the space allocated for your presentation.

Content space :: Presentation space

A) Large content, small presentation. Would allow for more complex interaction when looking for content, and larger previews. Would be less useful for choosing the exact position within the presentation, as the presentation's drop target area is smaller.

B) This option would be all about the content, and not the presentation. It doesn't allow for showing the context of the content's eventual destination.

C) Small content, large presentation. This would be desired if your content doesn't require complicated interaction to find, and if small previews are acceptable. Would be helpful to allow the user to fine-tune the content's position within the presentation, as the presentation is taking up more screen area.

In sum, I think it depends upon which factors are more important to your users:

  1. Larger previews of content
  2. More consideration given to finding/searching/browsing content
  3. Showing the context of the content's insertion point
  4. Allowing fine-tuning of content location without leaving the content insertion mode.

Factors 1 and 2 push for more content space. Factors 3 and 4 push for more presentation space.


Anything other than a file picker. Anything other than files. We have already gone down that road a billion times and it only worked for about 300 million users. And it didn’t even work well for most of them.

The most popular computer in the world is an iPhone, which outnumbers Macs and PC’s combined, and 99% of iPhone users never see a file icon or a file picker. These are not familiar metaphors to today’s computing users.

What am I adding to my presentation? Images, graphics, movies, text, animations? Conceptualize and identify them as images, graphics, movies, text, and animations. Show me the actual data. Give me ways to work with that data that are specific and useful and direct. Don’t put me in a cartoon of a 1970’s office with cartoon files and cartoon folders and expect me to read technical terms like JPEG off a file or labels like Movies off a folder as I choose things off a one-finger list. Show me the actual photos and the actual movies on my 300 dpi iPad display and let me manipulate them like real objects with my 11-finger multitouch display and my extraordinarily advanced opposable-thumb hands.


Great starting questions!

As with an set of specs I start with asking more questions.

  • You are creating a presentation with uploaded content but what if the content has been used in a previous presentation. Now you have to think about consistency of experience. Once you map out the asset management options the interaction will be obvious and must be similar.

  • What if you want to upload content from a laptop or desktop computer or create a library of content within the application.

Answer: My answer is try and use both. Different people interact with technology differently. Have a something like a split screen modal where the top screen shows selected files ready for upload and the bottom screen has a file navigation pane.

Choosing files could involve.

1) Dragging directly into the top pane from a laptop or desktop. 2) Dragging and dropping from the bottom pane to the top pane. 3) Selecting files in the bottom pane by clicking or tapping and then hitting a transfer button. - Selecting multiple files would be easy because you can tap once to select and tap again to deselect. You can even have it setup to press and hold for a bounding box and use dragging to select multiple files.

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