Fields and Folders are about the How not the What

Imagine being a Tridion consultant, helping content authors with setup you're not quite familiar with yet. You're asked:

"What does this field do?"

That can be the most embarrassing and challenging question I get from content authors when looking at an unfamiliar SDL Tridion setup simply because the entry forms are templates are configurable, programmable, and extensible.

Related to this is, "Where should we put these items?"

This one is slightly easier because the answer depends on the update process in terms of:
  • Who updates them
  • What types of items are they
  • Where are they used?
  • How frequently are they updated?
The answer to both these "what" and "where" questions should be a "how."

Fields

Here's a clear description of what goes in a field:
  • Image
  • Alt text
But maybe authors would understand how they're used better:
  • Portrait
  • Name and title
Or a combination of how and what:
  • Product Image (shown in different sizes based on context)
  • Description (for hidden alt text)
Sometimes you have fields as an "embedded" set or definition (Schema in Tridion) so the descriptions for each field are generic. In that case you can describe how they work when referencing the embedded schema:
  • Preview thumbnail and text description (optional, leave description blank to present the thumbnail's title instead):
    • Image
    • Text
Look at every products and other software for inspiration to find labels such as:
  • Push
  • Pull
  • Open
  • To:
  • From:
  • Subject:
Rather than:
  • Door
  • Handle
  • Soda tab
  • Person
  • Text

Folders

I can't remember where I read this tip (maybe It's All Too Much), but organizing isn't about where to put something, but rather where to find it.

Depending on the update scenario, authors may spend more time entering or re-using* content (Dominic Cronin might chime in re-use is overrated). Just like computer cache, you might then optimize for:
  • Time (or temporal relationships) to make recently entered items easier to find. You'll see this in folder or names that use dates (e.g. "2014," "2013," or "archive" folders or names like "2014_06_26_Press_Release").
  • Location (principle of locality), such that all items you're likely to use are in the same spot
More recently I'm seeing two phases with CMS organization:
  • Initial Setup
  • Production and Maintenance

Initial Setup

There's a fairly structured approach where in Tridion, the development team and power authors create pages and content with matching organization. Folder match Structure Groups to make it easy to create the initial set of examples and Page Types.

This might look like:
  • Content (Folder)
    • 1 Home Page
      • Editorial
      • Images
    • 2 Services
      • Editorial
      • Images
    • 3 Products
      • Editorial
      • Images
    • 4 About
      • Editorial
      • Images
  • Root (Structure Group)
    • 1 Home Page
    • 2 Services
    • 3 Products
    • 4 About

Production and Maintenance

But then, as an example setup evolves into production-ready content and maintenance becomes more important, it's easier to find items by how they're used.
  • Content (Folder)
    • Articles
    • Banners
    • Media
      • Images
      • Video
    • Products
    • Services
  • Root (Structure Group)
    • 1 Home Page
    • 2 Services
    • 3 Products
    • 4 About
Here you can leverage Tridion's separation between content and pages so that the Structure Groups and Pages don't need to change, but the content can be moved and adjusted for a good fit for the authoring team.

My best advice with fields and folders is to test them with potential authors. This practical step can take moments before programming code anything or authors create content depending on descriptions and folder organization. Then take a moment to see how authors evolve the folders, maybe even automating the folder documentation.

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