1. Clean up Your LayersIf you do a lot of design work in any graphics app, whether it’s Sketch, Photoshop, Affinity Designer, or some random wireframing app, you want to make sure that stuff is easy to make sense of. When you’re iterating fast, it’s easy to end up with a long list of layers that have no names, or that have been hidden away because you decided a previous approach didn’t look quite right. [pullquote]When you’re iterating fast, it’s easy to end up with a long list of layers that have no names[/pullquote] Make sure every layer is named, and that you don’t have any layers or elements you don’t need. Organize your objects into groups, layer groups, and folders. Here’s a more detailed guide to organizing PSDs, which can be adapted to just about any other graphical format.
3. Clean up Your FilesGrab your file manager of choice and get sorting. Maybe you downloaded a framework like Bootstrap, or a library like jQuery, before realizing you didn’t need them for this project. Maybe you made some files for experimenting in, but those experiments are over. Frankly, file management is one of those tasks I always put off ‘til later because it’s annoying, but even so, it needs to be done. You have to delete those extra files. Putting unused files on a server is bad practice, and you do not want to be trying to guess which files were actually important in three years, when you’ve more or less forgotten how you put everything together.
4. Consider Your Storage OptionsKindergartens, schools, some mechanics, warehouse administrators, and parents who’ve had a bunch of kids and have been collecting toys for fifteen years all recognize the value of clearly-labelled storage. There‘s nothing so annoying as getting kind of lost while you search through stacks of boxes for that one thing that’s got to be in there somewhere. [pullquote]Being the guy who can save your client’s website…is a good way to maintain healthy relations with said client[/pullquote] When it comes to storing past work, having a bunch of randomly-named folders on your hard drive won’t cut it. You need a system. At the very least, you could start by separating finished projects from current projects. Then, start looking into ways to back up your files. Whether you use a local external drive, or a third-party service, a good backup solution has the benefit of both loss prevention, and freeing up some space on your local drives if need be. This is especially important because clients lose files all the time. Sometimes they hire someone else to change things, and they mess it up. Sometimes data is lost in server crashes. Being the guy who can save your client’s website in a pinch is a good way to maintain healthy relations with said client.
5. DocumentationNow we get into “Putting Your Stuff Away 102”. Unless your project is the simplest HTML/CSS template known to man, it can help to write down some things like:
- The original goals for the project as defined by the client.
- The reasons why you made the design decisions you made.
- Which CSS hacks you used (if any).
- Which parts of the code just seem to work as long as you don’t dare to touch them ever.
- Which libraries and frameworks you used, and their version numbers.
Wrapping UpThis might all seem like a lot of extra work for a four-page site that you built in a relatively short time, for example. But really, this kind of organization saves a lot of time and potential headaches in the long run. Don’t ever under-estimate your ability to forget which file contains the latest design, or exactly why that CSS style is overriding that other one. As soon as you start on the next project, all this mental organization will evaporate. It’s a simple question, really: Would you rather sort all of this out now, or run around frantically searching for everything you need when a past client comes asking for a “quick change” that needs to happen “today, if possible”?
Ezequiel Bruni is a web/UX designer, blogger, and aspiring photographer living in Mexico. When he’s not up to his finely-chiselled ears in wire-frames and front-end code, or ranting about the same, he indulges in beer, pizza, fantasy novels, and stand-up comedy.