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Design Matters (8): Where’s that file?

I can make a reasonably sensible filing system, but tend to fall down when it comes to the practice of administrative maintenance. Like personal hygiene, administration is definitely a practice: best attended to regularly; never finished; never perfect; (almost) never a waste of time; having practical and psychological benefits (see: emotional friction) that spill far beyond its borders.

I am not the person to tell you how to structure your file system (or pluck your eyebrows – consider this an call for recommendations and guest posts on both topics), beyond saying that the more information we have, the more important information architecture becomes, even as Search gets better at finding our stuff for us.

But I do have a process by which you can recognise that you have A Problem:

  1. Go to retrieve a file you need;
  2. If it’s not in the first place you looked, think deeply and go to the next most obvious place;
  3. If the file’s not there, and if the places you looked in were logical places for it, you have A Filing Problem.
  4. If you see one, there are many.
  5. If you ever do find the file, you should probably put it in the first place you looked.

Other thoughts

  • Filing system problems are not the kind of troubles that are halved by sharing;
  • Multiple copies of files or sets of similarly named file in different locations are a bad idea, especially if placed in similarly named folders. They will breed.

More on Design:
Design matters: refrigerator control dial
Design Matters (2): badly designed Android Bluetooth menu
Design Matters (3): Ingenious board game tile holder and embodied memory
Design Matters (4): a recipe for trouble
Design Matters (5): the information architecture of a water dispenser
Design matters (6): Bosch hand-blender attachment
Design matters (7): Death by PowerPoint
A well designed paper bag from Waitrose
Postbox: good info
Design Singapore: Changi airport (1)
Structure Counts: Information Architecture reading list and who’s who
Steve Krug on Simplicity

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...