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

About The Creator

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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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 considerate atmosphere — that’s, the house the place you and your group work together with all product-related information and paperwork — straight away. The quantity of your property will solely develop with time, and it turns into virtually insufferable to seek out and repair the proper property 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 already are particular guidelines about product property administration in your group (tips, rules and a preferable software program), then this text won’t be that relevant in your case. But when there’s nothing particular in place simply but, otherwise you begin constructing your product atmosphere from scratch, then the knowledge beneath can prevent plenty 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 realize a very efficient collaboration, it’s essential for all the product group, together with not solely managers but in addition researchers, designers, and editors as effectively, to be on the identical web page on the subject of the best way of how workspace and property are organized. That’s why for each group member, it’s price 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 greatest practices across the subject. I’ve realized some rules the arduous means, and beneath 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 group from scratch two occasions.

It might take you some time to grasp why sure methods of working are essential, however, talking from my expertise, it can pay again. The article will likely 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?
Examine the 2 folders. By which one is it simpler so that you can discover, say, your July report back to traders? (Large preview)

Examine the 2 folders above. One is a folder with random information displayed in a Google Drive, and the opposite gives some construction for all of your property throughout folders. After all, it will be simpler so that you can discover, say, your July report for traders if everybody on the group named and structured their property persistently.

Let’s take a look at how to try this.

Product Data 101

So, as designers and builders, we all know how you can manage and keep our code and design property, however what about general product data at massive? There are many frequent property that might fall underneath the “Product data” class:

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

All of it boils all the way down to adopting a shared understanding of the corporate’s tradition, so that each group member is aligned, and might observe alongside of their work to keep away from pricey errors. It consists of managing paperwork, working with content material, coping with reviews, protecting testing data, collaboration and discussions.

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


These are some primary rules when constructing the atmosphere:

  • The data must be accessible any time for all people who is permitted; there shouldn’t be any “head keeper” of product data (a bottleneck, truly).
  • The data must be accessible from wherever.
  • The data must be sturdy, i.e. it must be arduous to interrupt one thing irreversibly accidentally.
  • The entry management must be pre-defined, comprehensible, and simply manageable.
  • It must be simple to leap in for newcomers.
  • It must be simple at hand out the property to outdoors collaborators.

However how will we obtain all of it in follow?

Ideas And Instruments

Firstly, let’s outline the topic extra exactly. When talking of atmosphere, we’re talking about product property, 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 data can be related throughout the entire product lifecycle, or will or not it’s archived as quickly as it’s resolved.

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

What functions will we select? Any: it’s your private choice. We will use any instruments in any mixture — we simply have to be sure that it’s a cloud utility that synchronizes throughout completely different customers and gadgets.

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 common challenge administration vs. content material administration apps. As common, you’ll want an app from every class. As you seen, you need to use 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. different to Google Drive instruments is Dropbox and Dropbox Paper. And there’s Notion, one other common utility — it’s a mixture of a job supervisor and a content material keeper. After all, it’s not an exhaustive listing, however they work effectively for me.

OK, sufficient speaking, let’s manage our information.

How To Create A Nicely-Organized Workspace

Begin With A Easy Association And Modify It Later

So, you’ve got a number of information that you just wish to manage. Don’t spend an excessive amount of effort and time to create an ideal set of folders or sections directly. 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, understand that all organizational actions are nonetheless secondary ones, so we most likely don’t wish to get exhausted with preparations earlier than we come all the way 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 evaluation it. In iterations.

Partly, it’s a good suggestion to create a folder referred to as Sandbox and transfer all of the paperwork that don’t slot in already outlined classes — e.g. if you happen to spend greater than 3s questioning the place to put or localte them. You may 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, modify 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 points.

The Rules of Recordsdata 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 will likely 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 Inventive Commons licence) (Large preview)

What would you embrace in such a doc?

  • Onboarding Ideas
    A information that will function an inventory of your group members and their roles, i.e., the knowledge you wish to move to a newcomer. To create it, the following time you onboard a brand new group members, concentrate and document all of the messages you ship to them. Create a template of those messages, manage them and put them collectively.
  • Design Recordsdata
    Hyperlinks to Figma or Sketch information, illustrations, and so forth.
  • Info Structure
    Often, a hyperlink to Miro or Airtables.
  • Product Property
    A Google Drive or Dropbox folder hyperlink.
  • Tech Stack
    A proof of the technical setup used for a product, maybe with necessary instruments to put in or use.
  • Press Package And Advertising and marketing Supplies
    Your branding materials, interface demo snapshots, and related property.
  • Shows, One-Pagers, Pitches
    Something you often ship out to inform extra about your product, or pitch your thought.
  • Enterprise Property
    100-day plan, unit financial system calculation, and so forth.
  • 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 whenever you’re on a name and wish to rapidly 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 could possibly present one single complete listing. But when it’s massive sufficient, consider domain-specific lists — say, a separate index for design, enterprise, and growth 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 talk about it later within the article.

Use Tags In Doc Names

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

This fashion, you’ll navigate information extra simply and received’t get confused in case you are concurrently engaged on related paperwork from completely different tasks — say, when you’ve got 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, information which are named in such a way seem extra organized, and simpler to scan in an inventory view. (Large preview)

Some helpful tags:

  • [Draft] or [WIP]: for paperwork which are nonetheless in progress.
  • [Old] or [Arch]: for paperwork which are now not related.
  • [EN], [ES], or [UA]: for multi-lingual paperwork.
  • [Jessy]: if you happen to’re working with outdoors 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.
In case you’re planning to work on a number of merchandise in parallel, it’s a good suggestion to incorporate the product title tag originally of the file title. (Large preview)

Once more, begin with these tags that go well with you and add extra if essential. Simply preserve their consistency in thoughts — say, if you happen to use the tag [WIP] for paperwork that aren’t prepared but, persist with 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 essential information 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 Sensible Statuses

This would possibly sound a bit unusual, however emojiscan be an incredible visible navigation device as a result of they’re completely different from the remainder of the content material. For instance, you could possibly 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 simple to inform what pages are now not wanted and what must be mentioned, proper? Clearly, you need to use any emoji however it’s cheap to observe frequent patterns, so your colleagues can simply get their that means. (Large preview)

You possibly can use emoji in your sections or folders. And it additionally may work in very completely different settings — e.g. in UI enhancing apps, akin to Figma or Sketch.

Actually, you could possibly 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 effectively). Additionally, take into account including a legend for everybody to seek the advice of if essential.

Spotlight And Remark On Adjustments

In case you change some a part of a doc, it’s a superb follow to let your teammates know concerning the adjustments 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 a way lengthy highlights must be stored. However it’s a good suggestion to maintain them for an extended sufficient time frame, so most members of your group could have sufficient time to see the replace. (Large preview)

You can too spotlight the elements on which you’re at the moment working. It’s particularly useful whenever you’re working with massive information and have a number of unfinished and scattered chunks. This fashion, you scale 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 may simply inform what elements 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’s all the time 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 kind setting, and stick to those default kinds in your inner documentation.

Be Cautious With Markup

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

For instance, whenever you share a big doc, you would possibly wish to level to a selected place there. In apps like Google Docs you’ll be able to add a bookmark and it’ll generate a sharing hyperlink to that bookmark. On opening such a hyperlink, the cursor will soar 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 may share hyperlinks not solely to an exterior web site, 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 understand that these parts usually are not that sturdy in comparison with an everyday hyperlink, pasted within the physique of the doc or message. For instance, if you happen to 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 particular person 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 proper, I used bookmarks as a supporting device and added a brief description of what elements must 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 would possibly really feel misplaced attempting to determine what was meant. On the proper, a minimum of there may be a proof 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 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 you should add a hyperlink redirecting someplace, don’t neglect to elucidate 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 title. (Large preview)

Truly, I borrowed this precept from my college course in translation. It’s referred to as infoglut, and it states that if you should get a message throughout asynchronously, it is best to enclose the principle idea a minimum of twice there. This fashion 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 sturdy.

Model Management Rules

Preserve Solely One Up-To-Date Model

If a doc must 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 whenever you use a number of instruments at a time. For instance, if you happen to make an index listing of your product property (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 hassle to preserve each information up-to-date. You’re simply extra more likely to come to a irritating state of affairs when you’ve got two energetic information that differ a little bit this manner.

Don’t Multiply Property

When you have a doc that falls underneath a number of classes — say, you’ve got 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 must be positioned in just one place? (Large preview)

Within the instance above, I’m utilizing a local shortcut device in Google Drive however in fact you’ll be able to create a doc with a hyperlink to the file in one other functions the identical means.

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 aware of your means of managing information. (Large preview)

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

What to do with the outdated doc? Don’t delete it — there’s a superb probability 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.

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

  1. Change its look; say, make the textual content coloration magenta or apply strikethrough model (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 be accessing it. So, go away them a clue what the up-to-date model now’s. (Large preview)

Entry Administration Rules

Create All New Paperwork In The Workforce Folder

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

Share Gadgets By way of A Sharing Device

In case you 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 deal with 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 proper entry. After all, it will find yourself with individuals ready in 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 would appear to be an overkill to show your self to not share hyperlinks from browser apps by way of easy copy-paste from the deal with line — however it’s truly a good suggestion. (Large preview)

Make it a behavior to share information and paperwork by way of their native sharing device. In some unspecified time in the future, it can actually save your life (or, a minimum of, your trip.)

Collaboration Rules

This part is particular 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 adjustments and imagine that the dialogue is over. In that case, don’t resolve their feedback — simply reply DONE and all the time let the one that began the dialog resolve it.

This fashion, the particular person can examine the ultimate consequence 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 adjustments with out re-reading the entire doc, attempting to identify the adjustments 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 consequence. This sample follows a traditional Kanban interplay. (Large preview)

Be Cautious With Feedback And Strategies

Strategies and feedback permit an editor to counsel their adjustments 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 options just for group 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 numerous 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 non permanent (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 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 option to be taught new shortcuts is to choose, 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 directly, it’s means too troublesome.

Thus, if you happen to 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/Choice + h1/h2/h3 to make corresponding headings.
  • Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + C to point out the phrase and character rely statistics of the doc and the chosen piece.
  • Cmd/Ctrl + Enter for a web page break.
  • Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + X for strikethrough textual content model.

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 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 create 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 handy 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 to both structures and create your perfect combined workspace.

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

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