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Don't Let Your Assets Get Lost in the Shuffle!

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In the world of website content management, there are few worse feelings than watching as your website grows and losing all control over the organization of the assets within your content management system. I've been there. I know your pain.

But what makes it worse is when, while searching for the reason why it all went to that deep, dark, unnameable place in a handbasket, my finger points squarely back at me. "Why didn't I do this when I had time??"

Don't let this happen to you! Let me help.

There are many solutions that exist solely to organize and manage digital assets. But if you're reading this, then you're likely either already an Episerver user or you're shopping around to see what's available and Episerver is on your short list. Why? Because Episerver is a content management system, and a really good one at that. This does not just mean that it's great for creating and managing webpages and webforms and the like, it's also fantastic for organizing all your assets, including images, PDFs, documents, etc. The ideas I'm going to share with you also work well with Episerver content blocks.

But you have to be willing to put in a little work to make it, er, work.

Develop Your Plan

First things first, if you have been in charge of a website for many years, be ready to unlearn what you already know. Being too familiar with the ins and outs of your website can actually work against you when trying to think outside the box regarding asset organization. Talk to department heads, managers, and other content editors (if you're lucky enough to have help on your site) and see if they have ideas that might make sense or pain points regarding how assets are currently being managed. Also refer to colleagues that you know from similar organizations and industries. Last, but certainly not least, seek some guidance from your WSOL Project Manager. This is not their first rodeo.

Next, commit your plan to paper. Clearly label those aspects of your new organization system that you expect will not change (higher-level folders) and also identify areas with potential flexibility (subfolders). Most importantly, share this plan with anyone who will be involved in maintenance of your website as well as their direct supervisor. If you ever expect to make this work, it must be known.

Gain Editor Buy-In

Are you in charge of a site that will have editors from a variety of departments throughout your organization? Well, the first step to successful asset organization is to gain buy-in from those department heads and editors.

Spell out your plan for asset naming and organization in writing. Be thorough but without being too technical or wordy. You don't want to lose them, after all! Remember what KISS means? Keep It Short and Sweet (there is another one, but I won't call names).

These preliminary stages are a good time to get these editors involved in the process, as well. With very little training, you can have them take care of parsing through their existing assets, determining what should be kept, renaming them according to your conventions, and even getting them uploaded into folders within Episerver. Saves you time and gets them invested in the process early! Win-win!

Now you have to write the plan! Here are some ideas to consider when developing your plan:

Folder Hierarchy

Start with very general folders and add subfolders with increasing degrees of specificity where it makes sense.

With content blocks, for example, start with Contacts (high level) \ Department \ Team or Project or Division (these are more flexible). Similar structures can be applied to Link Lists, Calls to Action (CTA), Location Maps, etc., as well as to the folder structure used for images and documents like PDFs.

Another option to consider is to set up folders based on access permissions. Say, for example, you have editor groups that have department-specific assets that will not be necessary for other departments to access, set up your higher-level folder structure using this permissions-based setup. When the time comes that you are applying permissions to users and user groups, you can then apply the same permissions with these folders so the wrong person cannot access the wrong folder. This sort of structure can be a little tricky, though, and may require some extra pre-planning.

File Naming

If you know ahead of time that a certain class of asset (I use "class" in a very general, specific-to-you sense) will have multiple varieties or be part of a larger grouping of assets, then it might make sense to give all these related assets a similar naming structure, both in terms of file names and titles within Episerver.

For example, if you are a government entity that posts agendas and minutes for multiple governing bodies and you have to leave them posted for a minimum amount of time to meet Federal standards, then you might want to come up with a way to list them all so they remain grouped together alphabetically within Episerver. This will make overwriting old copies with new ones that much easier. Something along the lines of "20171205-citycouncil-agenda.pdf" will group all meeting documents first by year, then month, then day, then governing body, then document type. You can even append "-v2" before the extension if you need to maintain a version record of files.

The same methodology can be applied to projects and marketing campaigns.

  • PublicWorks-MainStreetReconstruction-201705-RoadClosuresMap.pdf for a map of road closures back in May 2017 as part of the larger Main Street Reconstruction project being conducted by your Public Works department.
  • Outdoors-Fishing-Lures-201706-BOGObanner.jpg for a buy-one-get-one sale banner that was used in June 2017 to promote lures in the fishing division of the outdoors department of a sporting goods retailer.

Make sure that the naming method you use is flexible enough to allow for use by multiple departments for a variety of needs, but easy enough to enforce so there is no straying.

For This Page vs. For All Pages

A pretty cool feature within Episerver is the ability to designate assets and blocks as being specifically for a certain page or for use by the site as a whole.

If you open your Assets pane in Episerver, you will see a For This Page folder contained in both the Blocks and Media tabs on any page or block of the site (it will be named For this Block if you're working within a block). This feature is handy if you're using an asset or block that will never ever ever be used anywhere else on the site and you would prefer it not be there glutting up your collection of site-wide assets. It's truly a great way to separate out that content which is uniquely single use.

But, you must be keenly aware of whether this asset truly will never be used anywhere else? Are you 100% sure of this? What about in an article about this new product highlighted on the page? What if someone else wants to use it? While it's not really a problem to move an asset out to a For All Pages folder, it just becomes a hassle when you have an editor trying desperately to find it and you have to spend some already precious time trying to help them out. Sometimes the editor won't ask for your help at all and then you wind up with multiple copies of the same item in your CMS.

I hope these ideas help you on your way to a better system of asset management. If you have additional ideas or questions, leave a comment!

About the Author

Kevin Apgar
Kevin Apgar
As WSOL’s Quality Control/Content Concierge, Kevin ensures that finished projects meet the stringent expectations of WSOL as well as both the client and the end user. He plans and conducts CMS training sessions and prepares user manuals each tailored specifically for the unique needs of our clients. Kevin has nearly two decades of experience in web design and content management. He is also an experienced writer, editor, photographer, and desktop publisher. Outside of the workplace, Kevin enjoys spending time with his wife and son as well as consuming books, music, and podcasts. One day, he’d like to find that “perfect” topic and start his own podcast.
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