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Mar 30, 2015

Naming Files: No Need To Add The Year

One of the things we in SATS deal with occasionally is helping people put documents such as PDF’s, Word docs, schedules and application forms online in downloadable formats. An issue that sometimes comes up is when departments want to create a new/updated version of one of these documents for the new semester or school year. They will typically want to save or store the past versions of these documents for posterity and thus wind up naming the files with date descriptions (e.g. ‘Application-form-sp2015’ or ‘2014-event-schedule’).

There’s not nothing inherently wrong with this, but it can become wasteful, inefficient, and potentially confusing if all of the previous versions are kept on the department’s web site. At best, this can eat up storage space on the server, and it usually requires that the links to these resources be updated throughout the site each time a new version is produced. This can be a big deal on larger websites (especially if there any of the links are accidentally skipped over), and can lead to a overly bloated site which would be more difficult to maintain. At worst, it can cause your users confusion if they use search engines to find your resource, as an outdated version may appear in the results if all iterations of the file exist on the server at the same time.

The best solution is to not have multiple versions of a resource live on your web server concurrently unless there is a specific user-centric need to do so. You should only keep the latest version without any type of date description in the file name (e.g. ‘application-form-sp2015’ would instead simply be ‘application-form’). This way, each new version would overwrite the old one on the web site, and you wouldn’t need to waste time adjusting any of the links to this new version. If you wanted to maintain copies of the previous versions, a better option would be to do so in some sort of archived storage. You could save the files to your department’s common drive folder, or to CDs, DVDs or thumb drives, depending on how often they would need to be accessed, and by whom.

This concept doesn’t just apply to downloadable files; it’s the same for any type of content that can or does get reused on a regular basis, so long as your users only need to know about only one of them at a time. Whether it’s a Qualtrics survey, an event in Cascade, a web page, or something else, you can leave off the date from the filename (or title, or whatever applies to what you’re creating). No matter what you’re working on, I hope this tip helps you stay organized and saves you time in the future.


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