A common dilemma in SharePoint is “How many lists and libraries are too many? You’ll be pleased to know that the exactly correct answer is, “It depends.” Before you send me threatening tweets or comments, please read on!
Would your users prefer going to one place to find the information they’re looking for and sorting/filtering through one large bucket of data or having a list of libraries and lists, with detailed names to look through?
One giant list? Let’s think about that for a minute. I’m not talking about scrolling through a long list of hundreds of files. SharePoint lists and libraries allow us to create views. Views let us slice, dice and surface content in meaningful ways. Keep in mind, views cannot be secured so the One Big Bucket approach only works when security allows it.
New Options in Modern Interfaces
If the idea of manually creating lots of views has you cringing, consider the relatively new Filter pane in our modern lists and libraries.
This feature is pretty powerful.
It automatically picks up on new columns, custom and default, added to views and makes them available for filtering.
If you find yourself filtering with the same parameters frequently, it’s quick and easy to turn that filter into a permanent view.
One big advantage of documents being stored in one (or few) large library is ease of putability. Yes, putability. It’s a real (SharePoint) word, honest. Your coworkers don’t have to sort through many libraries and risk uploading to the wrong place. Granted, this risk in minimized when we’re careful to use unique and meaningful names Shared Documents) not.
“What about one library with lots of folders, Joy. Everyone knows what folders are and is used to them.”
Please don’t. If you’ve ever been on a call with me or even joined my webinar “The Joy of SharePoint” you’ve probably heard me say that folders are the F-word of SharePoint. They bury content, hide metadata, and can cause issues with URL length. And who out there really likes having to dig through layers of folders?
I highly recommend using a grouped view in your libraries if you want to achieve a “folderish” look and feel for your users. If you aren’t sure what metadata to use for grouping, think about what you would name folders in the library. Create a “Category” or “Topic” column, use those names then use those for grouping. In the images below, grouping has been configured to use the Primary Contact column.
Added bonus: when using the modern list/library interface and you drag content to a grouped section, that content will get tagged with the value it’s being grouped by!
It’s as easy as that!
Using one, or a few, large lists or libraries isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. When we have security issues to address we need to have the correct architecture in place to facilitate those security needs. Remember, views cannot be secured. In these cases, it’s imperative we have sites, lists, and libraries in place and properly permissioned.
When creating lists and libraries, even sites, always make sure to SUM up the names by keeping them Short, Unique, and Meaningful. The more meaningful our names, the less likely we are to upload to the wrong place.
That said, if you can simplify the upload process for yourself and your users, why not do so? Usability is the name of the game! If you just can’t stand the thought of different types of data in the same library you could always use Flow to move them to a permanent, separate library, based on their metadata. But that’s a blog for another day.