08.17.11

Content management -- folders are your friends

There is nothing worse than clicking on a link and being sent to a multitude of levels and documents only to have to sort them yourself to figure out what you're looking for. The solution is simple: folders.

Folders in your CMS can be extremely helpful, both to you and others working with it. If you are going to have more than 10 of one type of file, you should create a new directory (aka folder). For example: if you have monthly reports for the last five years you can make a folder for each year with the 12 reports ordered by month inside. It's easy to locate the report for July 2009 when it's located in the 2009Reports folder under July. 

The goal is when someone reads the structure of your folders they can find what they are looking for quickly and easily. There is no need for a new directory if you only have one document.

Here are a few tips that will help make your folder structure easy for anyone to understand:

  1. When naming by date, ALWAYS name by year, then month, then day. The reason is so all of your months and years stack up together. If you name things alphabetically, January, July and June will be stacked on top of each other and the structure becomes inefficient. Good examples for naming by date are 20110108 or 2011_06_01.
  2. Spaces are bad in naming for the web. Always and forever. Different computers have different standards for linking to files with spaces. Just because it will load on your computer does not mean it will on someone else's. To be safe use underscores and hyphens where you would have put a space.
  3. Be consistent in your naming conventions. If you use the format 20110608 with no underscores, then always use that format. Changing formats will throw off folder structure and confuse people. Change is not always a good thing.
  4. Alphabetical order applies to numbers, letters and spaces. It can also apply to upper and lowercase. Stick with the same order at all times so your folders are structured properly.
  5. Using internal acronyms that people know is encouraged to keep things short but understandable. For example: if you have a directory for the Office of Management and Finance naming the folder OMF should suffice. Keep things short and sweet.
Folders may not seem like an important issue when you first start working with a site, however after a few years when there is content overflowing you will appreciate the organization that the folders provide. They will also help make the site more understandable for someone new.

So remember: consistency is key, never use spaces, and folders are your friends.
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