Nested Folder No-No’s… My opinion and why I think they have their rightful place

Edward Ferron posted and Mart Muller and Paul Schaeflein responded to Edward’s thoughts about SharePoint document library folder nesting. To sum up, use folders for month/year archives and for little else. Instead use separate document libraries to organize your files. All of their comments I think are valid… but I think there is a flip side to this as well.  I do think there are times where using folders is better than multiple libraries.  I have users who have 8 libraries going down their portal page and it is junky and hard to read. Whereas if they had used folders in one library, it would take up a whole lot less screen real estate and be easier and quicker to find the topic you are looking for (instead of scrolling down the page).

Don’t get me wrong, I think folders in doc libraries do fall short.  The lack of permissions, the inability to add more details, the display when you click a folder and “poof!” disappears your other folders with no way back (when on the home page view, not expanded view, blah blah you get my point).  But not always do shortcomings deem a functionality completely unusable.

I feel Edward et all are sharing good advice, but there are other scenarios where using folders in libraries works well and probably even better than splitting files out into separate libraries.    Once I saw a user who had created multiple portal areas and housed a library on each area and the portal area left navigation acted as the “folder structure”.  Wow, that was really a nightmare for users to navigate, much less maintain.

I think the main things to think about when planning a library are:


    1. Is SharePoint your right home? SharePoint is a collaboration tool, not a document repository.  If you have an insane number of docs, perhaps a repository product would best suit your needs.


    1. What is your projected growth? Is this a newsletter archive, meeting minutes archive, or maybe a group of policies and procedures that don’t change often?  Think of long term use and reference.  Continually rearranging your library due to steady growth is a pain and then any specific links to docs or folders may become invalid.


    1. Who needs access to these docs? How large is the audience? This may effect placement on the page, growth, and considerations for ease of use.  If you have 10 people who access a library, it can go at the bottom of the page perhaps or have a lot of nested folders so it doesn’t take screen real estate from more important content.  Or if it is very important content maybe 4 libraries on one page that then provides super fast access to those files is a better solution.


  1. How much other non library content do you have?  Can you afford to use 3, 4, 5 libraries instead of one with 5 folders? Is that space needed for other content that is just as important?

And always, you can do a little peer usability testing.  The SharePoint library quirks that irk you and me to no end may not make your end user bat an eye.  Sometimes the people who work with something day in and day out obsess over things that bother them about a product that really don’t bother the end user.  Just like how they email us complaints and we go, you have a problem with that? Oh whatever.  😛

Geez this went way longer than I expected.  Climbing down from the box now.