Building a website is a complex project, and it needs to be managed carefully. Maintaining files and folders is crucial for successful management of web projects.
In this post, I want to share some of my favorite techniques that I use all the time to maintain my files and folders in a web project.
Maintaining Files and Folders in a Web Project
Working as a project manager in multinational organizations has taught me that, working on a project with many stakeholders requires a very well disciplined approach to filing and storing your documents.
Similarly, web projects involve more than one stakeholders: mainly you and your client. In many cases, a development team includes individuals, like graphic designers, photographers, and developers. Even the client is a member of the development team, as she provides the basic content and feedback.
In such an environment, filing and storing documents from all of these resources is is a must. Folder structure should be
- clear (easy to understand and communicate),
- logical (follows a set of rules/regulation that you set on your own),
- standardized (means you have a habit of using the same folder structure in all your projects),
- version-controlled (as much as possible),
- backed up regularly.
Now, let me get into more detail through real examples from my laptop.
Clear Folder Structure
To have a clear structure of files and folders is essential, especially if you’re working with other people. In big projects, there is a huge file traffic, both inbound, and outbound. Unless you have a clear folder structure, things start to get messy very fast and you get lost.
Having a clear naming for files is also important as it also affects other beneficial habits of standardization and version-control. In practice, what I mean is having a folder full of files like final-final_no-kidding-seriosly-final_logo-2.ai or untitiled-14.jpg doesn’t really help much.
Logically Set of Rules/Regulations
In my opinion, logic is subjective and a personal preference, which means my way of logically set folder structure might not be suitable for you. And I don’t mean that every member of your team must have exactly the same folder structure, (although it helps a lot if it is so). Yet here’s how I like to do it:
First, I have a folder for PM, project management. This folder is my-eyes-only, and it consists of managerial/administrative files and folders specific to that project. Most importantly, my invoices, quotations, and financial Excel files are here. Meeting minutes, communication with client and team members also fall into this folder. Gant charts (if you’re so into project management) and project description are optional and belong here.
Then, I have a folder named REFERENCES. This folder is for reference material (duh) like logos, style guides, and technical documentation on a framework or plugin (if applicable).
Probably the most crowded folder is called WORKAREA and under this folder, there are subfolders named after team members, including the client. The real meat of the work that has been carried out falls into these folders. I like to divide my work area into folders with file type names like PSD, AI, JPEG, SVG, HTML etc. This way, I know exactly where to look when I’m searching for something.
Every time I receive files from a client or team member, I take my time to save them into related folders. Although it may seem a lot of work, it actually saves a lot of time later, when I come to visit that directory.
Finally, I have a folder named DELIVERABLES. I like to divide my deliverables folder into two stages: DRAFT and FINAL. In a web project, what we deliver is a huge set of files, PHP, CSS, images, databases etc. I have a local development environment setup on my laptop, so when everything is finished I just make a copy of the project and put it into these folders.
The biggest benefit of having such a dedicated folder for deliverables is that when Earth cracks open, and the sky falls and someone asks for the project file I don’t need to search or have doubts about “Is this is really the finished product?”.
With years of experience of working with developers (I still don’t see myself as a developer), I know very well that developers (at least the good ones) have a very solid understanding and appreciation of version control. Version control is probably one of the most primary aspects of computer engineering, and this means web projects should apply version control as much as possible. Why am I saying as much as possible?
Because I’ve seen time and time again fall into the urge to skip versioning and just keep going through with the development. I believe that this is mostly due to the relatively small scale of web projects. “Just another WordPress site”, how difficult can it be, right?
Still, it’s always smart to have version control on any scale of web projects. Especially in this age of connectivity, it is very convenient and easy to use GitHub repositories or whatever solution you feel comfortable with.
What’s critical about standardization is to nurture a habit of using the same file and folder structure in every project. By using the same folder structure in every project, I gain a lot of efficiencies as I know for sure where my files are located even before opening Finder. Standardization is a personal choice and doesn’t necessarily mean every team member has to follow to the letter my way of naming and classifying files and folders, yet it’s better if we did.
Having some sort of standardized rules for naming files is another topic of interest. Many organizations follow a pre-defined set of rules for how the files will be named. Will there be a date, and if so what will be the format? How about initials of the person who edited the file? An example could be something like this: 20160915_sub-page-design_SD.psd
Every professional has their own way of having backups. And I’m in no intention to point to a specific method. The way I like to do it is that I put all my files into Dropbox. I have a Pro account which provides 1 TB of storage. Additionally, I also have my Time Machine backups on an external SSD. Obviously, there are much more professional ways to backup, and I’m not saying my method is an alternative to those out there, but I think considering a personal laptop, this level of safety is more than enough.
Last year, my way of backups was tested, as my Macbook Pro crashed down, due to a faulty graphics card (which I fixed it on my own btw; I changed my motherboard, which was much easier than you might guess, thanks to guys at iFixit). It took a couple of months, to find a suitable motherboard and everything. Meanwhile, my work schedule was almost not affected at all. I kept on working on Mac stations available in our university library. All my files were on Dropbox; fonts and other artwork were on Adobe Creative Cloud Libraries; so it wasn’t a big deal. It even helped me to improve my work efficiency, as I was locked down on a workstation with time limitations.
So that’s it. Here’s how I handle my file and folder management. If you have questions, comments or further suggestions, please write them below.