DAM Best Practices

Establishing Folder Structure Best Practices

Ben Owen

By Ben Owen | Jun 27, 2022

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Have you ever built a folder structure on your computer? If so, you probably created folders and then moved files into them manually or by using a digital filing system. Either way, whenever you need a specific file, you have to determine which folder it’s in to access it.

For example, what if you want to send an old file to a friend? If you know the name of the file, you can type it into the search bar. But what if you don’t know its name or your search doesn't yield results? You'll then have to search for it in all your folders. If your folder names and hierarchy make sense, you’ll only need limited information about the file to find it quickly. If not, you might give up because it’s taking too long.

Let’s take a more practical example. What if the digital marketing team at your organization needs a specific photograph and there are millions of files within countless folders to search? If your files are in folders with intuitive names within a well-organized hierarchy, you can easily find what you want. If not, you'll spend hours looking for it or have to pay a photographer to reproduce it. Either way, it impacts your productivity and costs your organization time and money.

In this article, we’ll discuss how folder structures remain relevant and useful for organizations interested in gaining a better understanding of their digital assets. Additionally, we’ll delve into some best practices for creating and managing these structures.

 

ADDRESSING A CHANGING DIGITAL WORLD

To many people, this discussion of folders might seem outdated. After all, several DAM platforms have done away with folders completely as a core organizational tool. Instead, they use metadata and automations as the backbone of efficient search and accessibility. That approach works very well for many organizations, and may even be the best option for yours now or in the future. Do your due diligence and use resources like the Stacks blog and our team of experts to learn what would work best for you. 

Folder structures, however, aren’t a dinosaur on the brink of extinction. Because of their near-universal application up until recently, they often are the easiest entry point for teams getting started in DAM. Especially if your organization is new to metadata or is transitioning from a tool like Dropbox or Google Drive, folders (or something resembling them) should be part of the updated organizational structure within your DAM program

Because applying metadata to your assets is a key step in the creation of a DAM program, you can always slowly transition users to this new approach later on. Folders (or their equivalents) can mitigate the risk of low adoption by any users who might not fully understand the world of automation and metadata. 

 

WHY FOLDER STRUCTURES (STILL) MATTER

Unlike many tools and processes involved in digital asset management (DAM), folder structures are almost universal. Many DAM platforms, software tools, or server systems use some type of folder to organize files. It makes sense. Folders have been used long before our world went digital. You may remember gigantic file cabinets lining the walls of your office. Now those file cabinets are digital. They take the form of Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, local hard drives and servers, or a DAM platform.

This technological upgrade doesn't make file organization less important. If your file cabinet is unorganized, it's difficult to find a specific file without sorted and labeled folders. Valuable time is lost looking for files and, eventually, the cabinet is a useless waste of space. The same is true for digital file cabinets, but the costs are even higher, given the expenses incurred by your organization for digital storage.

Our digital file “cabinets” no longer just hold documents. They now include valuable visual content, design files, marketing and Human Resources materials, and intellectual property. Clearly, properly managing your digital assets and the systems they live within is vital to your organization’s success.

 

Example of an Organized DAM Folder Structure

 

DAM Folder Structure

BENEFITS OF UNDERSTANDABLE FOLDER STRUCTURES

There are several core benefits to implementing a cohesive, understandable, future-focused folder structure to organize your digital assets:

1) Search

When your digital assets live in intuitively named folders within a well-organized library, you can easily find an old file to send to a friend or a specific photograph needed by your organization’s digital marketing team. This ability saves you time and money and ensures your organization can always place its best content in front of consumers to drive revenue.

 

2) Unification

If you work for a large brand, different departments may use distinct file structures. While this is necessary to a degree, having all departments use an organized filing system with standardized language and folder hierarchy is crucial. This allows for easier sharing of files, streamlines employee onboarding and transitioning, and eliminates siloing.

 

3) Growth

Many marketing teams experiencing widespread growth and success find themselves overwhelmed. Rather than finding excitement in increased revenue or expanded markets, the upsurge in the number of content and file requests they receive becomes a burden for them.

 

4) Training & Onboarding

As we mentioned earlier, folder structures are inherently intuitive to almost everyone in the workforce. However, the introduction of a new DAM platform, including metadata, automations, and asset delivery workflows, may not seem straightforward. If you're just getting started in DAM, no matter what platform you choose, be sure to think through how to best train your users to ensure they use the system. If adoption is a concern, choosing a platform with a folder structure or available equivalent may be your best option.

As your brand grows, so do the problems posed by a lack of clear standards and an organized, future-focused folder structure. It's worthwhile to invest in managing your digital resources to ensure your team can adapt to new expectations.

 

FOLDER STRUCTURE BEST PRACTICES

So, where do you start? Below are some best practices for creating a folder structure as we've described them so far.

 

It’s always best to start at the top. 

The first level of your folder structure is usually the most important. Selecting the right category to start with can be difficult, but we've found that dates or departments e.g. Sales, Marketing, Operations, etc. are usually an excellent place to start.

 

Determine the right level of specificity.

It's a mistake when creating folder structures to be too general or too specific. If the structure is too specific, it can take several minutes to search; if it’s too general, differentiating groups of assets can be difficult. Take the time to decide what level of specificity is right for your organization.

 

‍Draw it out.

It's vitally important to visually outline your proposed folder structure. Doing this enables your team to brainstorm more effectively. Once you've decided on your new structure, you can quickly onboard current staff members as well as new hires by sharing the outline with them. Several great tools like WriteMaps and Creately make this process easy.

 

Test it out. 

If you're unsure about the effectiveness of your folder structure, give it a test run. Build out an example, place a file deep within it, and ask a potential end-user to find it. Did the search take more or less time than expected? Is it faster than looking for the same file in your current structure?

 

Conclusion

Managing your digital files is probably not something you think about very often, but it's essential. Organizing your digital assets in folders with intuitive names is the easiest way to revolutionize, unify, and create room for growth in your organization. If you aren’t sure where to start or need help, contact Stacks today!

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