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Hanging on to what you’ve got

Last week I discussed the fairly arcane subject of filenames, and one of the questions which arose often comes up when suggesting any best practices online: should I change what I’ve already got?

In most cases, I would say be very careful. Once you publish something online, it gets hoovered up by search engines, linked to by friendly and unknown websites alike, is noted by users and becomes part of the furniture of the web. Change its name or its content and you can never be sure that all those connections it has made will ever be updated.

Changing a domain name is fraught with hazards, but it’s something which businesses do more frequently than is ideal, mainly through reorganisations. I know one company which changed from a to a .com when it decided it wanted to be a global player, then moved to separate country domains (including and .com) at a later date. It wouldn’t surprise me if the company one day decides that the sites should now all be amalgamated under one domain. Each time it’s essential to painstakingly ensure that every redundant web page and file is redirected to its new location, something which even some of the best web designers have been known to forget, or to consider not to be one of their responsibilities.

Returning to filenames, I think that if something’s working, it’s probably best to leave it that way. Capital letters, underscores, and non-descriptive filenames aren’t the best way to do things, but changing them retrospectively can cause more harm than good.

For new documents, however, it’s never too late to change your ways.

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