Organising & managing design projects with G Suite

Scott's Photo by Scott Wakefield


G Suite (formerly Google Apps) plays a huge role in the day-to-day running of our business. We use Docs for collaborative communication, Sheets for costings and Slides for presentations. 

The amount of files we have to store and organise grows every day. Not a day goes by that we don't create at least a handful of new Google Docs. Left unchecked it would be easy to end up with an unorganised mess of files and directories.

With that in mind we have worked to establish a system that makes finding and sharing documents a cinch. Our approach isn't perfect and it will continue to evolve, but right now it’s working so well for us that we wanted to share it with you.

While it won’t work for everyone, our method of organising everything from internal docs to client deliverables looks like this…

Organising Design Files In Google Drive
Your directory structure needs to be intuitive and browsing through it should be second nature.

Top Level Folder Structure

We have a series of top-level directories; the majority of which map to our core ‘departments’. The goal was to make finding what you need as intuitive as possible. 

Assets: Global assets that will help the team across all projects. We're talking templates, icon sets, fonts etc.

Business: Business development, team meeting notes etc.

Community: We store anything related to our community events (like Craft CMS Manchester) and open source projects in here.

Finance: This directory houses yearly overviews, finance related meeting notes and budgets. We organise everything in here by financial year.

Library: A curated collection of inspirational e-books, talks and interviews.

Marketing: Here you’ll find directories and files related to promoting the business. Including: Our Branding, Our Website, Presentations, Social Media and Testimonials. 

People, Pay and Paperwork: Our digital HR department.

Projects: All our project work organised by client name.

Sales: Anything related to sales and our sales pipeline lives in here. We’ll dive into the contents of this folder a little later…

Services: A collection of subfolders that hold files that support the services that we deliver. Including process documents and manuals. 

We wanted to avoid having to manage access to files and folders on a granular level. That includes not giving access to individual files within nested folders. Instead, we want to provide access to the whole folder whenever possible.

Why this approach?

Organising our files by department allows us to give team members access to only the files that they need for their particular roles. Everyone gets access to Assets, Library and Services, but not everyone needs to view HR related docs. 

We wanted to avoid having to manage access to files and folders on a granular level. That includes not giving access to individual files within nested folders. Instead, we want to provide access to the whole folder whenever possible.

Sales & Project Management

I'll talk about our Sales and Projects directories in more detail as these see the most action day to day...

Organising Sales

Clicking inside our Sales directory, you’ll find a Leads folder, which we split into '01 Open' and '02 Proceeded'.  

Note: We prefix our directories with numbers so they always stay in a logical order.

Each sales lead lives in a folder named ‘YYYY MM DD - Lead Description’ that is the parent of:

01 NDAs

NDAs were difficult documents to organise as they can occur at different times during a project. Plus there are two different occasions when they come into play:

  • the client can ask us to sign theirs or; 
  • we can ask external providers to sign ours.

NDAs are more likely to occur before or during the initial discovery phase of a project. With this in mind we opt to keep them nested within the sales lead directory.

02 Discovery 

The amount of files that live in here depends on the size and complexity of a project. There will always be a completed copy of our discovery questionnaire in here. Plus any other documents that detail the requirements of the client.

03 Costings

In here you’ll find a Google Sheets doc that holds all of the costs for a project. The only other files that live in here are quotes related to the project that we’ve received from service partners and suppliers. 

04 Scope & Terms

There is a lot of back and forth with the customer during the scoping phase, so it’s not surprising for there to be quite a few docs in here. Once we have refined a scope, we create a copy, add on our terms and then share it with the client for approval.

We collect all client feedback in a single Google Doc file... We pick out everything that is actionable so that the doc is as useful to those working on the project as possible.

Organising Projects

The project directories continue right from where the sales leads finish off…

01 Brief

This directory holds the finalised scope docs, but without the terms. It includes everything the client expects our team to deliver. Team members can refer to this doc at any time to make sure that we're all still on track.  

02 Assets

The home for anything that we haven’t created but will need throughout the course of the project. 

03 Working Files

This is where we store our work in progress, like photoshop and sketch files.

04 Deliverables

Each team member puts work that is ready to deliver to the client in here. The work could be anything from a brand presentation, code for a Craft CMS plugin to content strategy documents. The deliverables are always grouped into a folder named: 'YYYY MM DD - Deliverables Description'.

Having deliverables organised in this way makes our internal design reviews that much easier to manage. The dates in the folder names allow us to quickly work out what work has been done since the last delivery.

05 Deliveries & Feedback

When we're ready to deliver work to a client we put it in a delivery folder. Again, we name the folder using the following convention: "YYYY MM DD - Delivery Description". This allows us to keep a track of exactly what the client has seen and when they saw it.

We collect client feedback in a single Google Doc file that is added to throughout the duration of the project. We pick out everything that is actionable so that the doc is as useful to those working on the project as possible.

Templates

Now, that is a lot of directories to have to create each time we start a new project. To make things easier we have template directories that we can copy and rename. Here's a tree of both the Lead and Project template directories:

_YYYY MM DD - LD000000 - Lead Name

  • 01 NDA
    • LD000000-NDA-Name.gdoc
  • 02 Discovery
    • LD000000-ProjectPlanner.gdoc
  • 03 Costings
    • LD000000-ProjectCostings.gsheet
  • 04 Scope & Terms
    • LD000000-ChangeOfScope-00.gdoc
    • LD000000-ScopeAndTerms.gdoc

_PRJ000000 - Project Name

  • 01 Brief
  • 02 Assets
  • 03 Working Files
  • 04 Deliverables
  • 05 Deliveries & Feedback
    • PRJ000000-Feedback.gdoc

Note: the preceding underscores keep the directory at the top of our folder list.

What’s your approach?

I mentioned that this approach isn’t going to work for everyone. 

We know that there are project management apps out there that can help with this kind of thing, but we wanted to keep it simple. We still use Asana for task management, but it has been amazing how much we’ve been able to manage our projects using Google Apps alone.

How are you organising your files? We’d love to hear about your approach.


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