Friday May 7, 2021 By David Quintanilla
How To Organize Product-Related Assets And Collaborate Better — Smashing Magazine

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Valeriia Panina is a product-minded designer and a licensed UX author — with a ardour for expertise and the humanities. She is an advocate of human-centered …
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An excellent administration of your product data, i.e. all paperwork related along with your product — saves time, reduces nervousness, boosts onboarding and makes you prepared for holidays or sudden leaves. All product specialists ought to know the fundamentals.

So, you begin engaged on a brand new product. It’s essential to set a well-organized surroundings — that’s, the house the place you and your staff work together with all product-related recordsdata and paperwork — immediately. The quantity of your belongings will solely develop with time, and it turns into nearly insufferable to seek out and repair the suitable belongings on-the-go (besides maybe for small amendments). Moreover, a random construction could decelerate your workflow or collapse at a sure stage of your product progress.

If there are already particular guidelines about product belongings administration in your staff (tips, ideas and a preferable software program), then this text won’t be that relevant on your case. But when there’s nothing particular in place simply but, otherwise you begin constructing your product surroundings from scratch, then the data beneath can prevent a number of time and stress.

At this level, you may get a sense that the above-stated points would concern solely product homeowners and managers. Really, it’s not fairly true: to attain a very efficient collaboration, it’s crucial for the complete product staff, together with not solely managers but in addition researchers, designers, and editors as effectively, to be on the identical web page in terms of the best way of how workspace and belongings are organized. That’s why for each staff member, it’s price to speculate a while studying about product belongings administration and agree on collaboration guidelines.

The excellent news is that there are some well-established tips and finest practices across the matter. I’ve discovered some ideas the arduous manner, and beneath you’ll discover an outline of what labored and didn’t work for me. I’m a startup co-founder now, so I deal with my very own product, and I was the managing director of content material departments of huge groups. Partially, I led an e-learning product with 700 college students and 20 lecturers, and constructed a 10-members distant editorial staff from scratch two instances.

It could take you some time to grasp why sure methods of working are crucial, however, talking from my expertise, it would pay again. The article will likely be helpful for product specialists in small groups that begin constructing their surroundings from scratch, or wish to revise their product data administration abilities.

Compare the two folders. In which one is it easier for you to find, say, your July report to investors?
Examine the 2 folders. Wherein one is it simpler so that you can discover, say, your July report back to buyers? (Large preview)

Examine the 2 folders above. One is a folder with random recordsdata displayed in a Google Drive, and the opposite supplies some construction for all of your belongings throughout folders. In fact, it might be simpler so that you can discover, say, your July report for buyers if everybody on the staff named and structured their belongings constantly.

Let’s take a look at how to do this.

Product Information 101

So, as designers and builders, we all know the best way to set up and keep our code and design belongings, however what about general product data at massive? There are many widespread belongings that will fall below the “Product data” class:

  • Market analysis, enterprise plans
  • UX belongings: UX exams, copy docs, and many others.
  • Editorial coverage
  • Improvement timeline
  • Varied specs
  • Contracts, invoices and templates
  • Shows, pitch decks, one-pagers, and many others.
  • Buyers’ studies

All of it boils right down to adopting a shared understanding of the corporate’s tradition, so that each staff member is aligned, and might comply with alongside of their work to keep away from expensive errors. It consists of managing paperwork, working with content material, coping with studies, preserving testing data, collaboration and discussions.

Let’s discover a number of the ideas that might assist get there. And we’ll begin with the mindset.


These are some primary ideas when constructing the surroundings:

  • The data ought to be accessible any time for everyone who is allowed; there shouldn’t be any “head keeper” of product data (a bottleneck, truly).
  • The data ought to be accessible from wherever.
  • The data ought to be strong, i.e. it ought to be arduous to interrupt one thing irreversibly by chance.
  • The entry management ought to be pre-defined, comprehensible, and simply manageable.
  • It ought to be straightforward to leap in for newcomers.
  • It ought to be straightforward at hand out the belongings to outdoors collaborators.

However how can we obtain all of it in observe?

Ideas And Instruments

First, let’s outline the topic extra exactly. When talking of surroundings, we’re talking about product belongings, not duties. To grasp what piece of knowledge truly is an asset, and what’s a job, we have to ask ourselves whether or not this info could be related throughout the entire product lifecycle, or will it’s archived as quickly as it’s resolved.

Normally, we use content material purposes for long-term belongings, and job managers for time-limited actions.

What purposes can we select? Any: it’s your private desire. We are able to use any instruments in any mixture — we simply have to guarantee that it’s a cloud utility that synchronizes throughout completely different customers and units.

Some of the more popular project management vs. content management apps. As usual, you’ll need an app from each category. As you noticed, you can use the Notion app for both purposes, but it might require a bit of time to get used to it.
A number of the extra well-liked challenge administration vs. content material administration apps. As regular, you’ll want an app from every class. As you observed, you need to use the Notion app for each functions, but it surely may require a little bit of time to get used to it. (Large preview)

Personally, I’m a fan of Google Drive due to its simplicity, accessibility and ease of use for my not-so-tech-savvy colleagues. An excellent various to Google Drive instruments is Dropbox and Dropbox Paper. And there’s Notion, one other well-liked utility — it’s a mix of a job supervisor and a content material keeper. In fact, it’s not an exhaustive listing, however they work effectively for me.

OK, sufficient speaking, let’s set up our recordsdata.

How To Create A Nicely-Organized Workspace

Begin With A Easy Association And Regulate It Later

So, you might have a number of recordsdata that you just wish to set up. Don’t spend an excessive amount of effort and time to create an ideal set of folders or sections without delay. Begin with the best association, then watch how you utilize your workspace, and add, merge, or take away folders or sections on-the-go.


First, you by no means understand how your product will evolve, and second, remember the fact that all organizational actions are nonetheless secondary ones, so we in all probability don’t wish to get exhausted with preparations earlier than we come right down to our work duties. So it’s a good suggestion to begin with a basic construction and watch the way you’re utilizing it for some time — after which assessment it. In iterations.

Partially, it’s a good suggestion to create a folder known as Sandbox and transfer all of the paperwork that don’t slot in already outlined classes — e.g. for those who spend greater than 3s questioning the place to put or localte them. You possibly can outline new guidelines for these paperwork later.

Have A Weekly 10-min Clear-up

I can’t specific what a time-saver it’s! I actually imply it. Schedule the 10-minutes clean-up for each week, and use this time to undergo your data, regulate file names, examine their consistency, or tweak the construction of your folders and sections.

Oh, is every thing good? Nicely, you need to use this time to get a espresso or meditate for some time — it’s actually helpful in all features.

The Rules of Recordsdata Navigation

When the quantity of paperwork and belongings grows, it’s a good suggestion to create an outline web page of all units that exist within the folder. Consider it as a entrance web page of your challenge that reveals all the principle elements of it.

The closest metaphor will be an info board in a mall — if the index is clear enough, the visitors will easily find any shop.
The closest metaphor will likely be an data board in a mall — if the index is evident sufficient, the guests will simply discover any store. (Picture supply: Steven A. Miller on Flickr, cropped, a Artistic Commons licence) (Large preview)

What would you embrace in such a doc?

  • Onboarding Ideas
    A information which will characteristic a listing of your staff members and their roles, i.e., the data you wish to cross to a newcomer. To create it, the subsequent time you onboard a brand new staff members, concentrate and file all of the messages you ship to them. Create a template of those messages, set up them and put them collectively.
  • Design Recordsdata
    Hyperlinks to Figma or Sketch recordsdata, illustrations, and many others.
  • Data Structure
    Normally, a hyperlink to Miro or Airtables.
  • Product Belongings
    A Google Drive or Dropbox folder hyperlink.
  • Tech Stack
    A proof of the technical setup used for a product, maybe with essential instruments to put in or use.
  • Press Equipment And Advertising Supplies
    Your branding materials, interface demo snapshots, and related belongings.
  • Shows, One-Pagers, Pitches
    Something you often ship out to inform extra about your product, or pitch your concept.
  • Enterprise Belongings
    100-day plan, unit economic system calculation, and many others.
  • Different assets and paperwork that you just actively use.

Such a listing eliminates pointless questions and rounds of emails with misplaced attachments. It additionally proves particularly valuable once you’re on a name and wish to shortly open a file and share it along with your colleagues.

If your product is relatively small, you could provide one single comprehensive list. But if it’s large enough, think of domain-specific lists — say, a separate index for design, business, and development assets. Speaking about their formats, you can make a separate Google or Dropbox Paper documents for it, or just make a list of links at the head of your Notion workspace section.
In case your product is comparatively small, you possibly can present one single complete listing. But when it’s massive sufficient, consider domain-specific lists — say, a separate index for design, enterprise, and improvement belongings. Talking about their codecs, you may make a separate Google or Dropbox Paper paperwork for it, or simply make a listing of hyperlinks on the head of your Notion workspace part. (Large preview)

One factor to keep away from although is copying belongings from one folder to a different, or from one utility to a different. We’ll focus on it later within the article.

Use Tags In Doc Names

Whenever you create a doc, contemplate including a prefix, or tag, in its title. A tag displays classes that the doc belongs to.

This manner, you’ll navigate recordsdata extra simply and gained’t get confused if you’re concurrently engaged on related paperwork from completely different tasks — say, when you might have an index doc in your [First] and [Second] tasks.

It additionally helps to navigate between them with dozens of open browser tabs.

Good luck finding the Spanish version of a copy doc for the Smashing Magazine. It’s easier to spot with tags. Besides, files that are named in such a manner appear more organized, and easier to scan in a list view.
Good luck discovering the Spanish model of a replica doc for the Smashing Journal. It’s simpler to identify with tags. Moreover, recordsdata which are named in such a fashion seem extra organized, and simpler to scan in a listing view. (Large preview)

Some helpful tags:

  • [Draft] or [WIP]: for paperwork which are nonetheless in progress.
  • [Old] or [Arch]: for paperwork which are not related.
  • [EN], [ES], or [UA]: for multi-lingual paperwork.
  • [Jessy]: for those who’re working with outdoors collaborators.
  • Final however not least, an abbreviation of your challenge identify (e.g. [SM] for Smashing Journal, and so forth).
If you’re planning to work on multiple products in parallel, it’s a good idea to include the product name tag at the beginning of the file name.
For those who’re planning to work on a number of merchandise in parallel, it’s a good suggestion to incorporate the product identify tag originally of the file identify. (Large preview)

Once more, begin with these tags that swimsuit you and add extra if crucial. Simply maintain their consistency in thoughts — say, for those who use the tag [WIP] for paperwork that aren’t prepared but, follow it and don’t use [Draft] in such circumstances. Sounds apparent, however typically occurs unconsciously. In any other case, it’ll be arduous to seek out crucial recordsdata later.

It doesn’t really matter how you name your categories; just be consistent and reuse your tags.
It doesn’t actually matter the way you identify your classes; simply be constant and reuse your tags. (Large preview)

The identical guideline additionally applies to folder names.

Rules Of Modifying

Use Emoji For Sensible Statuses

This may sound a bit unusual, however emojiscan be a fantastic visible navigation device as a result of they’re completely different from the remainder of the content material. For instance, you possibly can add emoji in headings or tables to point the present standing of a doc.

It’s easy to tell what pages are no longer needed and what should be discussed, right? Obviously, you can use any emoji but it’s reasonable to follow common patterns, so your colleagues can easily get their meaning.
It’s straightforward to inform what pages are not wanted and what ought to be mentioned, proper? Clearly, you need to use any emoji but it surely’s affordable to comply with widespread patterns, so your colleagues can simply get their that means. (Large preview)

You could possibly use emoji on your sections or folders. And it additionally might work in very completely different settings — e.g. in UI enhancing apps, reminiscent of Figma or Sketch.

In reality, you possibly can provide you with a particular system of labeling: say, a inexperienced circle for completed gadgets and an orange diamond for work in progress (don’t neglect about accessibility: the weather ought to differ not solely in colour however in form as effectively). Additionally, contemplate including a legend for everybody to seek the advice of if crucial.

Spotlight And Remark On Modifications

For those who change some a part of a doc, it’s a great observe to let your teammates know concerning the modifications after they see the doc subsequent time.

For this, we use highlights.

There’s no rule of thumb for how long highlights should be kept. But it’s a good idea to keep them for a long enough period of time, so most members of your team will have enough time to see the update.
There’s no rule of thumb for the way lengthy highlights ought to be stored. But it surely’s a good suggestion to maintain them for a protracted sufficient time frame, so most members of your staff could have sufficient time to see the replace. (Large preview)

You can even spotlight the components on which you’re at present working. It’s particularly useful once you’re working with massive recordsdata and have a number of unfinished and scattered chunks. This manner, you cut back the probabilities to overlook out on some unfinished components because you’ll spot them when revising the file. It really works for every kind of paperwork truly — from Google Docs articles to Figma boards.

You can easily tell what parts are still in progress by highlighting them with a marker.
You possibly can simply inform what components are nonetheless in progress, proper? (Large preview)

Moreover, at each level, your colleagues will know at what stage every half truly is.

Use Default Types

There may be at all times a temptation to set your individual fonts and colours in a doc. However typically, there’s no use in it, simply an additional effort. So, agree on generaly kind setting, and stick to those default kinds on your inner documentation.

Be Cautious With Markup

Each app helps anchors, bookmarks, cross-links, and different forms of content material components which you can seek advice from.

For instance, once you share a big doc, you may wish to level to a selected place there. In apps like Google Docs you may add a bookmark and it’ll generate a sharing hyperlink to that bookmark. On opening such a hyperlink, the cursor will bounce to the bookmark with a small delay.

There are the identical anchor hyperlinks for feedback, too.

You can share links not only to a bookmark but also to comments or tasks. (By the way, it’s a copy doc — a document for product copy management).
You possibly can share hyperlinks not solely to an exterior website, but in addition to feedback or duties. (By the best way, that’s an instance of a copy doc — a doc for product copy administration. (Large preview)

They’re all helpful options, however remember the fact that these components aren’t that strong in comparison with an everyday hyperlink, pasted within the physique of the doc or message. For instance, for those who take a look at the picture beneath, within the message to the left I added hyperlinks to Google Docs bookmarks with none notes. If the bookmark disappears, the individual will likely be redirected to the start of the web page and can don’t know what spot was meant.

Within the message to the suitable, I used bookmarks as a supporting device and added a brief description of what components ought to be up to date.

Bookmarks with and without any notes. On the left, the user might feel lost trying to figure out what was meant. On the right, at least there is an explanation of what was meant.
Bookmarks with and with none notes. On the left, the consumer may really feel misplaced making an attempt to determine what was meant. On the suitable, at the least there may be an evidence of what was meant. (Large preview)

So, the golden rule I have a tendency to stay to is to make use of hyperlinks to bookmarks and alike as a supportive device, however nonetheless word the spot-in-question, i.e. the context of what’s linked to.

The identical applies to references inside a doc or a web page: if that you must add a hyperlink redirecting someplace, don’t neglect to clarify the merchandise you’re referring to.

Even if the anchor disappears, it’ll still be possible to find the section since I mentioned its name.
Even when the anchor disappears, it’ll nonetheless be doable to seek out the part since I discussed its identify. (Large preview)

Really, I borrowed this precept from my college course in translation. It’s known as infoglut, and it states that if that you must get a message throughout asynchronously, you must enclose the principle idea at the least twice there. This manner you reduce the possibilities of misinterpretation if some bits of the message are misplaced.

It also happened to me while I was working on this very article: I replaced a heading, thus it lost its properties and the previous link became invalid.
It additionally occurred to me whereas I used to be engaged on this very article: I changed a heading, thus it misplaced its properties and the earlier hyperlink grew to become invalid. (Large preview)

It’s not about redundancy — it’s about being strong.

Model Management Rules

Hold Solely One Up-To-Date Model

If a doc ought to be featured in two locations concurrently, by no means duplicate it. As an alternative, use hyperlinks or shortcuts.

The identical applies to any asset. Particularly once you use a number of instruments at a time. For instance, for those who make an index listing of your product belongings (the “entrance web page”) in a Google Doc, then don’t create a corresponding listing of hyperlinks in a Notion workspace and vice versa.

The reason being easy: keep away from doubling the trouble to maintain each recordsdata up-to-date. You’re simply extra prone to come to a irritating scenario when you might have two energetic recordsdata that differ somewhat this manner.

Don’t Multiply Belongings

If in case you have a doc that falls below a number of classes — say, you might have a replica doc of your touchdown web page in your Design folder and wish to add it to your proofreader’s folder to allow them to edit it, — keep away from duplicating this doc.

As an alternative, make a shortcut.

Who says that a file should be located in only one place?
Who says {that a} file ought to be positioned in just one place? (Large preview)

Within the instance above, I’m utilizing a local shortcut device in Google Drive however after all you may create a doc with a hyperlink to the file in one other purposes the identical manner.

Don’t hesitate to add explanations to make it easy-to-understand for colleagues who aren’t familiar with your way of managing files.
Don’t hesitate so as to add explanations to make it easy-to-understand for colleagues who aren’t conversant in your manner of managing recordsdata. (Large preview)

Ah, that’s one other helpful tip that proved to be useful for me. Say, you’ve revised the complete doc, and now the earlier model is not related.

What to do with the outdated doc? Don’t delete it — there’s a great likelihood that you may be opening this hyperlink because it’s already saved in your browser historical past, or that it’s bookmarked by one among your colleagues, or it’s linked in one other file.

Nonetheless, it’s not an possibility to depart it as is. What to do in such a case? Nicely, there are just a few choices.

  1. Change its look; say, make the textual content colour magenta or apply strikethrough fashion (or each).
  2. Add a tag within the filename, like [OLD] or [Arch].
  3. Add an rationalization and hyperlink to the brand new model.
If the document used to be heavily edited by many people, then your colleagues may still be accessing it. So, leave them a clue what the up-to-date version now is.
If the doc was once closely edited by many individuals, then your colleagues should be accessing it. So, depart them a clue what the up-to-date model now’s. (Large preview)

Entry Administration Rules

Create All New Paperwork In The Staff Folder

What differs between an offline folder and a cloud folder? Collaboration choices, after all! Ask your colleagues to make a behavior of making new paperwork inside a staff folder as a substitute of transferring them there afterwards. It simply saves pointless emails and textual content messages.

Share Gadgets By way of A Sharing Instrument

For those who work in a browser window and have to share a hyperlink to a file, your first hunch will likely be to repeat it from the handle bar.

However watch out. In lots of apps, this manner you’ll share the hyperlink to your personal workspace however not for the general public model of the file. Or simply share a restricted doc, not giving the suitable entry. In fact, this can find yourself with individuals ready on your approval, or pointless emails which it’s important to course of one-by-one.

It might seem like an overkill to teach yourself not to share links from browser apps via simple copy-paste from the address line — but it’s actually a good idea.
It would appear to be an overkill to show your self to not share hyperlinks from browser apps through easy copy-paste from the handle line — but it surely’s truly a good suggestion. (Large preview)

Make it a behavior to share recordsdata and paperwork through their native sharing device. In some unspecified time in the future, it would actually save your life (or, at the least, your trip.)

Collaboration Rules

This part is restricted primarily to cloud content material editors.

Say, you’re an writer and also you’re discussing some factors along with your editor. You made some modifications and consider that the dialogue is over. In that case, don’t resolve their feedback — simply reply DONE and at all times let the one who began the dialog resolve it.

This manner, the individual can examine the ultimate outcome and, in the event that they agree with it, resolve the problem themselves. Or, if it had been you who began the dialogue, then you definately’ll be capable to settle for or reject the modifications with out re-reading the entire doc, making an attempt to identify the modifications made.

By leaving comments open, now I can easily check the result. This pattern follows a classic Kanban interaction.
By leaving feedback open, now I can simply examine the outcome. This sample follows a traditional Kanban interplay. (Large preview)

Be Cautious With Feedback And Ideas

Ideas and feedback enable an editor to counsel their modifications with out altering the unique textual content, however a viewer gained’t see them in the event that they entry the doc in a view-only or visitor mode.

So use feedback and recommendations just for staff collaboration however not for leaving common annotations within the doc. For such circumstances, I choose leaving my annotations within the physique of the textual content in several fonts and colours.

Speaking about the difference between a comment and an annotation, a comment is temporary (so it is going to be no longer relevant after a certain event), and an annotation is constant (that is, it’ll stay relevant for a long period of time).
Talking concerning the distinction between a remark and an annotation: a remark is short-term (so it’ll be not related after a sure occasion), and an annotation is fixed (that’s, it’ll keep related for a protracted time frame). (Large preview)

Extra Ideas For a Productive Workflow

Use Shortcuts

This piece of recommendation isn’t very surprising, however I simply can’t assist repeating it. For me, the best solution to be taught new shortcuts is to select, say, a set of three at a time, use them till it turns into totally automated for you, and solely then go for an additional portion of three. Don’t attempt to embody all of them without delay, it’s manner too tough.

Thus, for those who work with Google Drive, then take a look at these 5 most helpful ones:

  • Cmd/Ctrl + F to seek out some textual content.
  • Cmd/Ctrl + Alt/Possibility + h1/h2/h3 to make corresponding headings.
  • Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + C to indicate the phrase and character depend statistics of the doc and the chosen piece.
  • Cmd/Ctrl + Enter for a web page break.
  • Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + X for strikethrough textual content fashion.

You can even check out the whole list of Google Drive shortcuts.

If we take Notion, these are my favorite ones:

  • All / (slash) instructions that create sure content material blocks; /todo is on the highest of my listing.
  • Cmd/Ctrl + A to pick a block the place my cursor is.
  • Utilizing [[ + page name to create a link to it.

The Notion team also provides a comprehensive list of all the Notion shortcuts.

This is what works best for my flow, but surely you can think of another set that suits your needs best.

Set Up A Separate Email Folder For Notifications

A separate email folder will help you avoid being overwhelmed with identical emails and miss the important ones. But I’d strongly recommend not turning off email notifications. What to do, then? Separate folders with rules.

It takes you some time to set it up but the ROI of such a structure is almost instant.
It takes you some time to set it up but the ROI of such a structure is almost instant. (Large preview)

I leave notification badges but I have all such emails automatically marked as read. Plus, with such a system in place, you can automatically group emails and get an overview of what requires my attention and what has been work in progress.

Use A Grammar Correction Extension

A grammar correction tool highlights your typos and suggests better ways to formulate your sentences. There are several products with a desktop app and/or a browser extension that works in every content environment.

A Product Assets Folder Structure With A Template

Right now, I’m working on my own startup and we’re constantly applying all these principles to our file management processes. I’ve simplified our structure and made a default folder you can use and customize:

With this template, you can easily replicate the same structure in your favorite cloud app — be it Dropbox, Google Drive, or pretty much anything else. If you want to try the Notion app, start by using their templates (“Company home” or “Product Wiki” are useful for long-term assets and “Roadmap” can be used as a task management tool), and adjust it on the go. If you use a different app, you can look at both structures and create your perfect combined workspace.

Let’s get the assets organized! And please share your best practices in the comments!

Smashing Editorial
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