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 an authorized UX author — with a ardour for know-how and the humanities. She is an advocate of human-centered …
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A superb administration of your product data, i.e. all paperwork related along with your product — saves time, reduces anxiousness, 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 atmosphere — that’s, the area the place you and your staff work together with all product-related recordsdata and paperwork — instantly. The quantity of your property will solely develop with time, and it turns into nearly insufferable to search out and repair the appropriate property on-the-go (besides maybe for small amendments). Apart from, a random construction could decelerate your workflow or collapse at a sure stage of your product development.

If there are already particular guidelines about product property administration in your staff (tips, rules and a preferable software program), then this text may not be that relevant to your case. But when there’s nothing particular in place simply but, otherwise you begin constructing your product atmosphere from scratch, then the data under can prevent a whole lot of time and stress.

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

The excellent news is that there are some well-established tips and finest practices across the subject. I’ve realized some rules the exhausting method, and under you’ll discover an summary 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. Partly, 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 might take you some time to know why sure methods of working are essential, however, talking from my expertise, it can pay again. The article might be helpful for product specialists in small groups that begin constructing their atmosphere 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?
Evaluate the 2 folders. Wherein one is it simpler so that you can discover, say, your July report back to traders? (Large preview)

Evaluate 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 property throughout folders. In fact, it will be simpler so that you can discover, say, your July report for traders if everybody on the staff named and structured their property persistently.

Let’s take a look at how to do this.

Product Information 101

So, as designers and builders, we all know find out how to set up and preserve our code and design property, however what about total product data at massive? There are many frequent property that may fall underneath the “Product data” class:

  • Market analysis, enterprise plans
  • UX property: UX exams, copy docs, and so on.
  • Editorial coverage
  • Improvement timeline
  • Varied specs
  • Contracts, invoices and templates
  • Shows, pitch decks, one-pagers, and so on.
  • Traders’ experiences

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

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


These are some fundamental rules when constructing the atmosphere:

  • The data ought to be accessible any time for all people 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 sturdy, i.e. it ought to be exhausting to interrupt one thing irreversibly accidentally.
  • 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 property to exterior collaborators.

However how will we obtain all of it in apply?

Ideas And Instruments

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

Often, we use content material purposes for long-term property, and process managers for time-limited actions.

What purposes will we select? Any: it’s your private choice. We will use any instruments in any mixture — we simply must be sure 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 few 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 should utilize the Notion app for each functions, however it would possibly 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. A superb 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 process supervisor and a content material keeper. In fact, it’s not an exhaustive checklist, however they work properly for me.

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

How To Create A Nicely-Organized Workspace

Begin With A Easy Association And Modify It Later

So, you may 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 only 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 know the way your product will evolve, and second, remember the fact that all organizational actions are nonetheless secondary ones, so we most likely 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 start out with a common construction and watch the way you’re utilizing it for some time — after which evaluate it. In iterations.

Partly, 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. should you 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 categorical 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, modify file names, examine their consistency, or tweak the construction of your folders and sections.

Oh, is every thing excellent? Nicely, you should utilize this time to get a espresso or meditate for some time — it’s actually helpful in all points.

The Rules of Information Navigation

When the quantity of paperwork and property grows, it’s a good suggestion to create an summary 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 parts 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 might be an information board in a mall — if the index is obvious 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 an inventory of your staff members and their roles, i.e., the data you wish to cross to a newcomer. To create it, the following time you onboard a brand new staff members, listen and document all of the messages you ship to them. Create a template of those messages, set up them and put them collectively.
  • Design Information
    Hyperlinks to Figma or Sketch recordsdata, illustrations, and so on.
  • Info Structure
    Often, a hyperlink to Miro or Airtables.
  • Product Belongings
    A Google Drive or Dropbox folder hyperlink.
  • Tech Stack
    An evidence of the technical setup used for a product, maybe with essential instruments to put in or use.
  • Press Package And Advertising Supplies
    Your branding materials, interface demo snapshots, and comparable property.
  • Shows, One-Pagers, Pitches
    Something you normally ship out to inform extra about your product, or pitch your thought.
  • Enterprise Belongings
    100-day plan, unit financial system calculation, and so on.
  • Different sources and paperwork that you just actively use.

Such an inventory eliminates pointless questions and rounds of emails with misplaced attachments. It additionally proves particularly treasured if 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 might present one single complete checklist. But when it’s massive sufficient, consider domain-specific lists — say, a separate index for design, enterprise, and improvement property. Talking about their codecs, you can also make a separate Google or Dropbox Paper paperwork for it, or simply make an inventory of hyperlinks on the head of your Notion workspace part. (Large preview)

One factor to keep away from although is copying property 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 fashion, you’ll navigate recordsdata extra simply and received’t get confused if you’re concurrently engaged on comparable paperwork from completely different initiatives — say, when you may have an index doc in your [First] and [Second] initiatives.

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 duplicate doc for the Smashing Journal. It’s simpler to identify with tags. Apart from, recordsdata which might be named in such a fashion seem extra organized, and simpler to scan in an inventory view. (Large preview)

Some helpful tags:

  • [Draft] or [WIP]: for paperwork which might be nonetheless in progress.
  • [Old] or [Arch]: for paperwork which might be now not related.
  • [EN], [ES], or [UA]: for multi-lingual paperwork.
  • [Jessy]: should you’re working with exterior collaborators.
  • Final however not least, an abbreviation of your challenge title (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.
Should you’re planning to work on a number of merchandise in parallel, it’s a good suggestion to incorporate the product title tag at first of the file title. (Large preview)

Once more, begin with these tags that go well with you and add extra if essential. Simply maintain their consistency in thoughts — say, should you use the tag [WIP] for paperwork that aren’t prepared but, keep on with it and don’t use [Draft] in such circumstances. Sounds apparent, however generally occurs unconsciously. In any other case, it’ll be exhausting to search out essential 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 title 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 Good Statuses

This would possibly sound a bit unusual, however emojiscan be an incredible visible navigation instrument as a result of they’re completely different from the remainder of the content material. For instance, you might 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 now not wanted and what ought to be mentioned, proper? Clearly, you should utilize any emoji however it’s cheap to comply with frequent patterns, so your colleagues can simply get their which means. (Large preview)

You would use emoji to your sections or folders. And it additionally might work in very completely different settings — e.g. in UI enhancing apps, similar to Figma or Sketch.

In actual fact, you might give you 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 coloration however in form as properly). Additionally, contemplate including a legend for everybody to seek the advice of if essential.

Spotlight And Remark On Adjustments

Should you change some a part of a doc, it’s an excellent apply to let your teammates know in regards to the modifications once 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 saved. But it surely’s a good suggestion to maintain them for an extended sufficient time period, so most members of your staff may have sufficient time to see the replace. (Large preview)

You can too spotlight the elements on which you’re presently working. It’s particularly useful if you’re working with massive recordsdata and have a number of unfinished and scattered chunks. This fashion, you cut back the probabilities to overlook out on some unfinished elements because you’ll spot them when revising the file. It really works for all types 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 elements are nonetheless in progress, proper? (Large preview)

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

Use Default Kinds

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

Be Cautious With Markup

Each app helps anchors, bookmarks, cross-links, and different kinds of content material parts you could consult with.

For instance, if you share a big doc, you would possibly 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 leap 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 parts should not that sturdy in comparison with an everyday hyperlink, pasted within the physique of the doc or message. For instance, should you take a look at the picture under, within the message to the left I added hyperlinks to Google Docs bookmarks with none notes. If the bookmark disappears, the individual might be redirected to the start of the web page and can don’t know what spot was meant.

Within the message to the appropriate, I used bookmarks as a supporting instrument and added a brief description of what elements 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 person would possibly really feel misplaced attempting to determine what was meant. On the appropriate, no less than 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 instrument, however nonetheless notice 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 it’s essential to 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 search out the part since I discussed its title. (Large preview)

Truly, I borrowed this precept from my college course in translation. It’s known as infoglut, and it states that if it’s essential to get a message throughout asynchronously, it’s best to enclose the principle idea no less than twice there. This fashion you reduce the probabilities 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 sturdy.

Model Management Rules

Preserve 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 if you use a number of instruments at a time. For instance, should you make an index checklist of your product property (the “entrance web page”) in a Google Doc, then don’t create a corresponding checklist of hyperlinks in a Notion workspace and vice versa.

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

Don’t Multiply Belongings

If in case you have a doc that falls underneath a number of classes — say, you may have a duplicate 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 situated in just one place? (Large preview)

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

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 acquainted with your method of managing recordsdata. (Large preview)

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

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

Nevertheless, it’s not an choice to go away it as is. What to do in such a case? Nicely, there are a number of choices.

  1. Change its look; say, make the textual content coloration magenta or apply strikethrough fashion (or each).
  2. Add a tag within the filename, like [OLD] or [Arch].
  3. Add an clarification 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 still be accessing it. So, depart them a clue what the up-to-date model now could be. (Large preview)

Entry Administration Rules

Create All New Paperwork In The Crew 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 an alternative of transferring them there afterwards. It simply saves pointless emails and textual content messages.

Share Objects By way of A Sharing Device

Should you work in a browser window and must share a hyperlink to a file, your first hunch might be to repeat it from the deal with bar.

However watch out. In lots of apps, this fashion 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 appropriate entry. In fact, it will find yourself with folks ready to your approval, or pointless emails which it’s a must 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’d appear to be an overkill to show your self to not share hyperlinks from browser apps through easy copy-paste from the deal with line — however it’s truly a good suggestion. (Large preview)

Make it a behavior to share recordsdata and paperwork through their native sharing instrument. Sooner or later, it can actually save your life (or, no less than, your trip.)

Collaboration Rules

This part is particular primarily to cloud content material editors.

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

This fashion, the individual can examine the ultimate outcome and, in the event that they agree with it, resolve the difficulty themselves. Or, if it have been you who began the dialogue, you then’ll be capable of settle for or reject the modifications with out re-reading the entire doc, attempting 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 Recommendations

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

So use feedback and ideas just for staff collaboration however not for leaving common annotations within the doc. For such circumstances, I favor 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 in regards to the distinction between a remark and an annotation: a remark is momentary (so it will be now not related after a sure occasion), and an annotation is fixed (that’s, it’ll keep related for an extended time period). (Large preview)

Extra Ideas For a Productive Workflow

Use Shortcuts

This piece of recommendation isn’t very sudden, however I simply can’t assist repeating it. For me, the simplest technique 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 one more portion of three. Don’t attempt to embody all of them without delay, it’s method too troublesome.

Thus, should you work with Google Drive, then take a look at these 5 most helpful ones:

  • Cmd/Ctrl + F to search out some textual content.
  • Cmd/Ctrl + Alt/Choice + h1/h2/h3 to make corresponding headings.
  • Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + C to point out 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 too 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 checklist.
  • 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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