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Monthly Archives: July 2007

Thanks for nothing: Using non-descriptive names doesn't help when looking for specific content.

Thanks for nothing: Using non-descriptive names doesn’t help when looking for specific content.

If you want your content to work for you, it’s important you know what content you have.

While you might have a super brain and miraculously remember where you stored all your stuff, this is not a scalable solution.

As soon as you have more than one person managing your content, you need to set up an efficient filing system and define principles to maintain it, such as the Naming Convention.

How to set up a Naming Convention


1) Define what elements need to be in your file name

Determine identifiers that you commonly use in your filing system, e.g.

– client / department
– project / programme / event / product number
– dates
– places
– originator / source
– language
– format / type / platform
– size / dimensions
– version


2) Make room for meaningful descriptions

How would you summarise the document to your mom / how would you describe the image to your grandpa? Now sum it up in a tweet and you probably end up with a meaningful description.

A meaningful description should be:

– unique
– indicative
– scannable
– consistent

Squeeze as much of it as you can into the file name. But remember to KISS – keep it short and simple!

If you need more space, add this information as metadata to your file.


3) Follow a hierarchy of general to specific

Start your file name with the most general element, and add more specifics toward the end of your file name.


4) Create a code for long and frequently used elements

If an element takes up too many characters, you can use a code or abbreviation instead. Document these codes for others to know what to look for.


5) Avoid special symbols

Stick to plain alphanumeric characters, so your file is already optimised to work with any content management system.


6) Publish your Naming Convention as part of your business identity

A Naming Convention only works if everyone knows about it and follows it. The definition of your Naming Convention should be part of any brand bible or corporate identity guide.

Some good examples:

Alberta Government’s Naming Conventions for Electronic Documents.

Wikipedia policy for article titles

The University of Leicester’s Naming Convention

The University of Edinburgh’s Naming Convention Rules

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