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Best practices for building file naming conventions
29th July 2022
Do you ever figure out what image you want to use for a piece of marketing or sales collateral, search for it in your file storage solution and... nothing?
The file isn't in the folder it should be, and all of your searches based on what you think it's called don't turn up anything.
If you're using a file storage solution like Google Drive, Dropbox or Microsoft SharePoint, you're probably familiar with this problem. In fact, if you're using SharePoint specifically, we've got a whitepaper you might be interested in.
If you want to reduce the incidents of lost assets within your file storage solution, or just save yourself some time, you need to implement a strict set of file naming conventions.
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5 best practices for file naming conventions
- Keep file names short, but meaningful
- Make use of consistent, relevant elements
- Avoid special characters and spaces
- Document and share the file naming convention
- Logical file organisation
1. Keep file names short, but meaningful
Your file names should be as short as possible while retaining enough meaning to make them identifiable from similar assets. It's a tricky, but vital, balance to strike.
Using meaningful abbreviations is a good tip to achieve this. For example, if the file is a blog featured image, you could use the abbreviation 'feat'.
2. Make use of consistent, relevant elements
Using consistent and relevant file name elements will also help with keeping them short and meaningful. Using too many could cause some technical issues (for example, the maximum file path is 259 characters in Windows), while too few will make it hard to distinguish between files.
The order of the elements in the file name should relate to the importance of that information, while the order should also be consistent between files.
One example might be:
How might this look?
3. Avoid special characters
Special characters in your file names as these are sometimes defined functions in operating systems, and cause issues when saving and searching for files.
Special characters to avoid include but are not limited to:
* : \ / < > | " ? [ ] ; = + & £ $
4. Document and share the file naming convention
A file naming convention is only effective if it's effectively documented and communicated with the wider organisation. This documentation and training should be clear and easy to understand, and saved somewhere easily accessible for the whole organisation.
5. Logical file organisation
Files shouldn't just be logically named, they should also be logically organised.
This includes naming folders clearly. Your folder structure should make sense to someone who's not even familiar with the project. After all, a new hire or your future replacement might need to navigate your file structure without knowing how you sorted the assets.
You need to strike a balance between not putting all the files in a single folder, but also not creating an overly granular folder structure.
Why this isn't as important with a Digital Asset Management system
Unfortunately, even when you've spent time creating detailed documentation around your file naming convention, assets will still sometimes go missing, whether that's because the naming convention hasn't been followed or the file has been moved to a different drive.
You might not even want to find a specific file, but see a selection of files that match a specific theme, for example if you want to browse different images for some content you're creating.
This is why Digital Asset Management is so much more effective than traditional file storage.
That's because a DAM like ResourceSpace is built on metadata. When you use metadata as the primary method of organising digital assets, those assets can be classified in a number of different ways. Need to find an image of a family for a blog post or web page, but don't have a specific image in mind? Simply searching for 'family' will return all images tagged with the metadata 'family'. You don't need to know the name of the file you're looking for, you just need to search for related categories.
ResourceSpace allows for fixed metadata fields so you can control the metadata inputs, including through dropdown lists, radio buttons or checkboxes, as well as AI tagging. AI automated tagging will recognise objects, items, faces and places present in an image and prompt appropriate keywords for the user to choose from.
This doesn't mean file naming conventions aren't still important - don't start uploading files with nonsensical names or neglecting folder logical structure - but it does mean searching for the perfect digital asset, whether you know what that's going to be or not, is so much easier.
Want to find out more about how ResourceSpace can save you time and get the most out of your digital assets? Request a free tour of our software, or launch your free ResourceSpace portal below.