Designing a directory structure is much like designing any other kind of organizational system. A user could decide to use a single, flat directory space to store all files. Although having thousands of files in a single directory can lead to performance problems, this is not usually a concern for the common desktop user. When deciding on a directory structure, the common user should only be concerned with the ease and efficiency of finding a file.
I prefer to start my directory structure by organizing files by organization. In my main document directory, I have sub-directories for each of the organizations I have worked with. In the case of Colorado Technical University, I have a sub-folder called “CTU”. At the same level, you can find folders for the companies I’ve worked for, as well as a “Projects” directory to hold the independent projects I’ve worked on.
In my system, all files start life under the organization level sub-folder. Once files start to have things in common, a new sub-folder is created to hold those related files. In the case of the CTU sub-folder, all files are organized in another level of folders based on class. In other words, all IT105 files are in a file called “IT105”. For me this is the last level of sub-folders, but room for further organization exists.
Another reasonable level of directories might include directories like “Instructor Files” and “Textbook”. Because of the proliferation of broadband Internet access, I tend to not download and store files that are available to me via the Colorado Technical University Virtual Campus. This system is only reasonable if Internet access is always available.
As a final thought on directory structures, I think it should be noted that organizing files into directories for quick access is becoming an outmoded concept. The paradigm today is shifting away from directories to tags or labels. The idea is that a file can easily be relevant to more than one directory. By putting a file in a directory, it might actually be harder to find if the user is looking for it in a new or different context.
Another new idea that works well with the idea of tags / labels is the use of search on the desktop. Applications like Spotlight in Mac OS X or Google Desktop allow the user to search the content of documents on their local hard drives. Used in conjunction with labels, this allows a user to quickly and easily find all documents relating to a particular phrase. These applications even have the ability to index mail making this system far more efficient than a normal directory structure.