As hard as they've tried they still haven't been completely able to remove files and folders from iOS. If you've ever used an app such as Dropbox—or indeed one of the many apps which integrate with the service—you'll be familiar with what the experience is like.

The problem on iOS is you can only move one directory per tap (or swipe). So to jump up several levels you'd have to tap several times. Then it tends to take a second to get your bearings to see if you've reached the right spot or if you need to go back further.

As part of iOS7, Apple introduced the edge swipe gesture which allows you to go back or, in the case of the Dropbox app, up one directory. This got me thinking, could there be a better way…

From OSX to iOS

A feature I like on OSX is the abililty to get a good overview of your file structure really quickly. A direct port of the feature to iOS obviously wouldn't work very well though I could build on the idea.

blog-iOSNavConcept-01
It’s handled pretty well on OSX, though that hasn't really translated well to iOS
blog-iOSNavConcept-02
Dropbox has a more rudimentary version on their web app

I had the idea to split the view much like on OSX. The plan was to show around 5 or so directories at once (to keep tap targets reasonable) and if you really wanted to get fancy you could introduce horizontal scrolling—like on OSX.

blog-iOSNavConcept-03
The initial design phase got me to this stage

The difficult part was coming up with an interaction. Tap and swipe would be the obvious one, though that's already in use by the system and not really something I'd want to mess with. Being more of a power user feature I had a look at more complex interactions which built on this. Two finger edge swipe would work well for iPad, though not so much for iPhones where one-handed usage is common.

Then Apple introduced their watch, with it coming Force Touch. I realise this wont work on the iPhone today, though i'd hazard a guess it's coming soon (Announced with the 6S). This brought me to a possible solution: Force Touch and edge swipe. The thinking being you tap and swipe to go up one directory (as you do currently) or tap a little harder (i.e. Force Touch) and swipe to bring up this alternative view.

Prototype

One of the key takeaways from the redesign of this site allowing for a reflection period. Prototyping, without a doubt, is another great way to improve pickup on things which could be missed—it's interesting how much easier it is to critique a product once you're able to touch, see and interact with it.

I'd played with Framer on several occasions before so I had a decent idea about what it was capable of. Though only recently discovered the draggable event which really allowed me to play around with this concept.

The cool thing about prototyping is it often leads to new interactions and those details which really make a product. One thing to come from this stage was the idea to slide the page title (i.e. folder name) when the navigation opened—a detail which could have been missed if it hadn't reached this prototyping stage.

Check out a video of the final prototype below:

This is for now just a quick concept. Though I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I used Dropbox as the example as it's somewhat ubiquitous, though there's plenty of apps which use files to navigate such as iCloud, Transmit etc.