How to Create and Apply Effective File Names

File naming matters.

It matters for college students collaborating on work and applying to jobs. It matters for entrepreneurs managing important legal and tax documents.

It matters for small teams sharing files on Google Drive or Dropbox, and it especially matters for large brands generating content daily so they can connect with the consumer. 

In the world of digital asset management (DAM), effective file naming can transform how you manage your library. No matter the situation, having an organized, searchable, and easy-to-understand archive is vital to success in your professional pursuits. Below, we outline how to create effective file names and the benefits this brings to an organization. 

Benefits of Effective File Naming

Why does naming your files the right way matter? There are several key benefits of having a clear and understandable file naming structure. 

Organization

How you organize assets within your library is one of the most important pieces of effective digital asset management. Most library platforms, whether they are servers or cloud-based DAM platforms, organize files by file name.

For this reason, developing a file naming standard for your organization will instantly help reorganize your files and make your library more efficient.

At Stacks, we find that including capture dates and sequence numbers helps organize files in the order they were created. This ensures that your assets tell a story to someone navigating through them, making clear their purpose within your organization.

Search

Enabling users to quickly search for and find high quality, relevant assets is one of the core goals of DAM systems. You can create effective search in several ways, but one of the simplest is through file names.

Unlike other search methods like metadata tagging and folder structures, file names are searchable no matter what platform is used to store assets. By creating a standard file naming convention, users always know how to search for and find the right asset.The Cons of Metadata

Understanding

With standardized file names, users across the organization, regardless of department or experience level, will have a good idea of how what file names mean before they even access the library.

They do not have to remember the different naming conventions used by other departments or contributors. They will also be able to quickly understand the purpose, origin, and content of an asset by its file name.

Creating Intuitive File Names

As we have seen, having a clear, thought-out, and understandable standard for naming files is invaluable. To start, we’ve listed some best practices below for developing a file naming convention.

If you find yourself unable to move forward at any point, a DAM consultant will be able to help.

Best Practices

Get input from all the stakeholders and end-users of your library. Take the time to gather everyone together, whether it be remotely or in-person, and brainstorm what fields and information are necessary for your file naming strategy to work across your entire organization. This may take a while but will pay off in the form of buy-in from all your users. 

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List all the fields that could be relevant, then start eliminating. Make a list of all the fields which might be useful and then narrow it down to include only the most necessary ones. Be sure to work with the other stakeholders to determine which fields are optional and which are required.

Use abbreviations and acronyms, but make sure users know what they mean. Abbreviations and acronyms can be used to represent different types of information such as names, departments, file types, and usages. While this helps keep file names simple, it is important to define their meaning and create a reference guide for users. 

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Don’t be afraid of a long file name. While longer file names may not be appealing, the information they contain is important. Don’t sacrifice organization, searchability, and your team’s understanding for the sake of a “clean”-looking file name. This is especially important if you are not using keywords for search purposes, but depending on file names to be your primary search tool.

Use underscores to separate information fields. Underscores clearly define the different pieces of information contained in a file name. If your file naming convention looks like this: YYYYMMDD_FirstLastInitial_Department_Description_001.jpg, it will be far easier to understand than this: YYYYMMDDFirstLastInitialDepartmentDescription001.jpg. You can check out an example of how we did this for the Baltimore Ravens below.

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When naming visual assets, always use sequence numbers. The sequence number should appear at the very end of a file name. Sequence numbers allow your assets to be sorted instantly and in sequence and enable users to quickly find the asset they need. 

Conclusion

File names are an important and powerful way to organize your visual assets. Creating and implementing clear and relevant standards for naming your files allows you to organize them, search for them quickly, and utilize them more effectively. If you need help or would like some advice from experts in the field, contact us today!

Ben Owen

Ben Owen

Ben helps to manage growth at Stacks by leading the implementation of strategies, workflows, and efficient processes. He enjoys working with others to find the most effective way to achieve goals and put people in the best position to succeed.

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