Organising your files
Where to begin
It doesn’t matter too much how you organise your files provided you do organise your files.
There are two parts to this process:
- folder structure
- file naming
These should apply to your entire file organisation but here we’ll just stick with the website aspect.
If you are expecting to use an external designer to whom you will be sending copy and assets, the simple way to do this is to zip up an entire folder structure complete with documents and images and email it to them. This means that your structure should be set up to separate what you want to send to them and what you don’t.
Here we’re using the Windows files system, but the principles are the same for Mac OS X.
By way of example, we've taken an empty data disk and created a folder Website and then a preliminary child folder hierarchy.
The root folder shown above is for documents destined for the website’s root folder such as your profile or contact details. If your website is small you could omit this folder and put documents directly into the website folder.
You could also keep copies of legal PDF documents (eg terms and conditions) here. The general principle should be to avoid PDF documents on a website, but sometimes pagination is important and PDFs provide that.
The content of this folder is not likely to change much over time.
If you regularly send out newsletters as part of a marketing campaign, then it makes sense to group these together.
It can also help to group by years and within each year’s folder, name the file according to months.
Using a year/month numerical prefix means that the files will be sorted correctly.
On the other hand, if you want to keep pictures separately but grouped with a particular month’s newsletter, create a folder for everything for that month.
It’s normal to have a web version of a newsletter on the website too. This may be a carbon copy of the mailed version or it might remove the individual ‘decorations’ like Dear… The formatting requirements for newsletters are fundamentally different from what is required for a modern responsive website, so the web version might have the same content but arranged to work on smartphones too.
The articles and blog folders are examples of custom folders – though in this case you may not have both. It’s most likely that you will have industry-specific folders.
Within your custom folders, you may also want to group by year or by type.
How not to do it
Too often people start with a document name, then as revisions go on. It gets into a mess.
Revision management using the date backwards
Using a numerical year month day prefix, optionally including hour and minute with a dash (don’t use a colon) will allow the documents to appear in date order.
It's a policy decision whether or not to delete old versions after a time. The main reason for keeping things is to prove that you said such-and-such.
Should you decide to retain old versions and you are using year folders too, an archive tends to build up naturally.
Web naming versus document naming
There should be some correlation between the website page name and the document from which it is sourced for simple reasons of management, but it’s not necessarily going to be exactly the same.
Here we’re talking about images, videos and possibly PDFs, spreadsheets, etc.
It may be that you are using images in printed material as well as on the website. The size and resolution for each of these purposes are wildly different so there needs to be some clear way of naming the different versions.
As a matter of course, images do not arrive with the correct cropping, size or resolution so there needs to be an incoming or lightbox folder and one or more corresponding processed folders. For example you could have two separate processed folders for web and print.
Images are used on a website in a number of different ways:
- showing something specific in a page
- decorating a page or item – what we term iconic images
- a background image
Incoming pictures have to be cropped and scaled using Photoshop or another image editing app. Once processed, they should be saved into the appropriate folder with a filename that reflects the size of the image in pixels:
Without going completely mad, use meaningful names:
The hints in the name are particularly useful for the web designer and may be for you too in three months’ time.
There’s a whole production process involved with videos that’s too long and involved to go into here. The chances are that you will be using YouTube, Vimeo or similar to actually host the video.
Choose a name that reflects the title eg how-to-use-the-widget. If the content is likely to change over time, add a version number or the date to the name: 2014-08-how-to-use-the-widget.
Services like YouTube will provide a number of different video file types to suit different devices so we haven’t mentioned extensions like .mp4 here.
PDFs and other documents
Meaningful names that make sense once the visitor has downloaded the file to their computer help enormously. One or our suppliers marks all their monthly invoices as Generate PDF.pdf which is decidedly unhelpful. Whereas the name 2014 02 17 MyCompanyName invoice.pdf would give it all away nicely.
Never use the words new or final in a filename. Never ever.
Set up a system that works for you and your associates.
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