What is the best folder UX? drop downs in drop downs? horizontal columns? breadcrumb?

There are multiple user experiences for how to navigate a folder structure. Finder and Explorer both have different configurations such as the dropdowns within dropdowns, or the columns that open horizontally, or the classic folder that opens into a folder with a bread crumb at the top.

When designing an MVP I don’t want to give the user configuration options I want to give them the most popular or most effective way of navigating a folder structure.

What are everyone’s thoughts about the best folder navigation UX?

Hi Jason, welcome :slight_smile:

It’s hard to say without knowing more about who you’re designing for, and what you’re designing. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, hence why you’re needing to ask the question.

Is it a website, or mobile app, or something else? How complicated is the information architecture? What are the customers expecting? What is their appetite for change? What are competitors doing? What are the brand values and design principles you need to accommodate?

All this stuff will come from understanding who you’re designing for, as well as what the goals are (of your employer?).

Does that help? We’d need more details to comment much further, I think.

Hi Jason,

As mentioned above by Lukcha It’s hard to say without knowing device!
For System Folders I will recommend ‘Horizontal Column’ and For Web ‘Breadcrumbs’!
For Mobile I will suggest ’ Tree View’!

Hi guys,

Its a web app that scales down to tablet size and the available real estate is about 40% width.
The IA is on the larger side.
Customers expectations are low based on similar apps and they are probably more conditioned to a UX from their personal internet use.
Appetite for change is there as the greenhouse control industry has very old UX/UI.

Considering my horizontal real estate is low Im leaning away from the column design. Drag and drop organisational functionalist between parent folders is desirable so Im leaning towards the tree view.

Personally my favorite or most commonly used folder UX is the breadcrumb with full screen folder context. I like that it has the visual real estate dedicated to the context you are within and then the bread crumb can be used to navigate back up the parent folders. I also think this view has power in the differentiation between file types by using larger icons and thumb nails.

Where I see it lack is in the ability to have multiple sibling folders open and be able to move files between child folders of different parents. Which is where the tree view excels. But I think tree view can become a little chaotic and overwhelming too…

Its great when these two methods can be used together but I just dont have room for that.

I guess what Im curious about is what do people think the pros and cons are for different methods and if there are any trends in certain directions?

Mostly, Dropdowns in dropdowns are in wide use.