Good content is sometimes not enough, the users must reach it so they can see it's good!

How to name your files

Posted: March 31st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Good practices, Usability fail | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

I was reading an article on Useful Usability and opened all 15 links to save the PDF files on my computer. I don’t have the time to read them now but i hope to find some in the near future. (It’s basically like writing things on a CD, you’ll never insert that in the optical unit ever again 🙂 ).

Anyway, I saved almost all of them in a directory on my computer. Looking at them later I realized many of them have names which don’t say anything about the content of the file, one of them is named “johnny.pdf”. The title of that particular article/study is “Why Johnny Can’t Encrypt: A Usability Evaluation of PGP 5.0”. While “johnny” is part of the title, left alone it doesn’t say anything about the usability evaluation in the file.

When dealing with files on the web, name them according to the content. You don’t know where they may end up, you want exposure after all, help that exposure with a content descriptive name.

Another important reason: SEO. It’s one thing when Google Bot crawls a picture of a blue book named “blue_book.jpg”, and another when it crawls “ds7d6s9ad99s9s76d6s.jpg”. Your picture will end up higher on the Google Images Index and generate you more traffic.

The main reason though, has to be the user. To a human being “ds7d6s9ad99s9s76d6s” doesn’t say anything about the content, “blue_book” does.

Developer note:
For huge applications dealing with many files it’s quite hard to avoid duplicates (that’s why developers use hash strings like “ds7d6s9ad99s9s76d6s”), take for example, all their image names look like that. For the rest of the applications developers can use some kind of hybrid naming like “blue_book_7d7s8767.jpg”. It’s much better than to use only the hash string.

4 Comments on “How to name your files”

  1. 1 Ahava said at 11:32 pm on April 1st, 2009:

    Name your files according to keywords! Works everytime…

  2. 2 admin said at 11:35 pm on April 1st, 2009:

    you’re doing this for the user, not for the search engines, if they benefit too from it, that’s good….

  3. 3 Stririle SEO/SEM 27.03-3.04 | Surf Media said at 12:35 pm on April 3rd, 2009:

    […] Denumeste-ti fisierele din site in functie de cuvintele cheie. Pentru mai multe detalii citeste aici. […]

  4. 4 Brian R Cline said at 6:42 pm on August 8th, 2009:


    I have to say that I agree about SEO improvements.

    I find it to be one of the most frustrating things when you download something to view later and because the developer didn’t spend that extra time giving the content a meaningful name you have to guess what the contents of the file are.

    @Ahava: I don’t think that necessarily by keywords is a great solution either at least for usability.

    I would prefer that at least part of the title makes it into the name and then maybe a keyword or too.

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