How to structure your digital asset management system

Have you recently taken the plunge and invested in a brand new digital asset management system? Or are you evaluating? Great! Your life is about to get a whole lot easier. Well, in theory at least.

A digital asset management system, or DAM for short, is a lot like a filing cabinet. If you stick to a solid organization system, it works like a charm. If you don’t—well, things start to go pear-shaped. So before even setting up your DAM, it’s essential you consider how to structure it. Not only will it save you time down the line, but it’ll help others find exactly what they’re looking for too. Get started with our roundup of the five best practices for structuring your DAM.

Talk to the people who’ll be using it

Before launching into full DAM organization mode, consult your team. How are they going to use the system? Are there any company guidelines for organizing shared files? If so, take inspiration from these to reduce the risk of confusion for other team members. Meeting with others is also the perfect opportunity to update user settings and access options, saving you time later on.

Finally, remember to train, train, and train again. Sending instructions on how to navigate the DAM is useful, but nothing beats hands-on training to ensure your users all feel confident.



Go easy on spaces and underscores

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It might not seem like a big deal, but spaces and underscores can have a massive impact on the organization of your DAM. Placing an underscore, space, or any other special characters at the beginning of your file name will force it to appear at the top of an alphabetically sorted list. This can be handy if you want to draw attention to one particular folder, but it can also cause problems when a file isn’t in its usual place.



Get savvy with keywords

When organizing your DAM, it’s essential you make it as easy to navigate as possible. Being savvy with keywords is one way of doing just that. Some DAM systems create keywords based on a file’s location. So be mindful of the keywords you use. If, for example, you put a file called “Beach Images” in a folder named “Vacation Photography,” the file will pop up whenever you search for “vacation,” “beach,” or “images.” Just one of the many ways of structuring your DAM to make it work for you.



Avoid ambiguous folders

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When it comes to DAM folders, you want to keep things as minimalistic as possible. You may be a tempted to create a whole host of different folders but do so at your peril. Ambiguous folders with overlapping categories tend to lead to duplicate files, or incorrectly filed images. So make life easier for you and your team by creating subfolders.



Create templates

Save yourself the hassle of manually building each folder structure, and create a template. This is especially handy if you’re planning on using the same subfolders throughout the system, saving you loads of time and effort. On top of that, templates allow you to maintain a standardized structure, making it easier to navigate the web of folders and files.



Consider Starting Over

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Faced with the DAM folder structure from hell? Sometimes it’s best to cut your losses and start over. Trying to get to grips with a DAM system you inherited from someone else is never fun, and it’ll likely take you hours to get it in shape.

One of the easiest ways to revamp an old system is to create a completely new folder structure, then choose a cutoff date, after which the old location becomes obsolete. Don’t worry; the old folders won’t self-destruct. You’ll just be left with a read-only archive and a spanking new DAM folder structure.


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