humanize filenames make users happy

I am on a quest to help UX designers think about humanizing their products. In this post I’d like to talk about humanizing filenames when your application saves an invoice.

Any application that bills it’s customers should have a human readable file name. Your customers need those invoices when they submit expense reports. It’s frustrating to have a folder full of poorly named files when you are trying to find a specific invoice.

I’d like to use Buffer to demonstrate my point. Buffer is an awesome app that has a great user interface. It’s the contrast between a normally great UI and it’s in-human invoice file names that illustrates the problem.

Download an Invoice

The download UI is below. When you click on either Download Invoice as PDF or Download Receipt as PDF a file is dropped into your download folder.

UX issue with save file

Anyone see a problem here?

The receipt filenames are woefully unhelpful. It’s very obvious what is going on here. The developer who wrote this code probably had the requirement that each receipt filename should be unique.

Come tax time I’m going to have a folder full of these poorly named files. I will either need to rename them all or manually check each file to see if it includes the correct months. It’s not such a big deal with Buffer since my invoices are all the same amount. I would rip my hair out in frustration if I had to manually match different invoice amounts with the appropriate file.

This is an easy problem to solve by adopting the following naming convention.

Do this instead

application – receipt – YEAR-MO – unique ID.pdf

So, in the example above Buffer should name the files

buffer - receipt - 2017-01 - BHz7Z.pdf
buffer - receipt - 2017-02 - AMz7Z.pdf
buffer - receipt - 2017-03 - aLz7Z.pdf
buffer - receipt - 2017-04 - Ajz7Z.pdf

Humanizing information removes cognitive friction in your application. If you allow users to save files offline, make sure that the filenames are as useful to them as the rest of your product.


Please share your thoughts.

Joe Cotellese
Product Manager
Joe Cotellese
Doylestown, PA

My first professional job involved playing video games for 9 hours a day. After experiencing early signs of brain rot, I decided to teach myself how to write software.

My entire career is characterized by this “why not?” attitude.

I'm currently applying my experience at product development to help early to mid-stage companies develop a “product first” mindset.

You can also find him at the links below.

Affiliate Disclosure

On blog posts where I discuss products I may include affiliate links. If you click on one of these links and buy something then I get a teeny-tiny commission. As of this writing I think I make enough to buy a cup of coffee once every couple of months. 

I don't get any paid compensation directly to write product reviews. I think that's pretty scammy.