These days it is really easy to create lists and libraries to store data and documents.  It is also very easy to build metadata to support the information you are trying to store.  However, as I have stated before it is also very easy to set things up incorrectly.  This next post in my Power User Best Practices is going to cover what you should and shouldn’t do with a SharePoint List and Library.

SharePoint Best Practices – Lists and Libraries


It’s no surprise here, but in my opinion the most important part of building a list\library is planning.  What are you going to be storing?  Are you storing data with some attachments, or are you storing attachments with metadata?  If the main component of the data you wish to store are documents (regardless of the file type) then you are going to want to use a library with metadata attached to it.  However, if you are just entering data that could possibly have attachments to support, then a list will suffice because all lists have an attachment component to it.  The planning goes well beyond determining part.  You also need to determine the type of information you want to track.  Your metadata.  How are you going to organize the data?  This information is really important for a few reasons.  Well planned metadata helps:

  • Sort and filter rows to find data easier within the list
  • Organizes data in a manner that is logical to the users.
  • Tracks information that is important to the documents being stored.
  • Assists SharePoint Search in finding the information you need when it is used.  SharePoint Search actually makes heavy use of metadata when crawling and searching your data (but that’s a conversation for another day).

When planning out your list, it is probably a good idea to review my site column and content type posts to get a better understanding on how things fit together.

Site Columns vs. List Columns

I am a huge supporter of site columns in all lists and libraries.  The main reason is for reuse of the columns in other lists within or below the site (believe me, you never know when you might reuse the same field in another list).  If you use mainly list columns then there is a really good chance that you would recreate the same columns all over the place.  For example, say you have a status field that indicates a document is either active, retired or under review.  Chances are you could have other libraries within the site or sub sites that might need to track the same information.  If you create the field as a site column you don’t have to recreate it.  You can simply reuse the same one.

One of the few times I do consider using list columns is for lookup lists.  This is because you normally only have a single column and either use the title field or rename the title field of the lookup list.  If however you are using multiple fields in your lookup lists I strongly urge you to use site columns and content types.

Creating the List

There’s not too much in the way of best practices when creating the list itself, but there are a few things to consider.  First, like a site column, never create the list name with spaces.  In fact, if you can truncate the name a bit do that.  If you are still on SharePoint 2013 and older, you are still going to be limited to the number of characters in the path of any documents store.  SharePoint ignores the flags and tags in a URL as far as the length of the path goes, but if your internal list name is 50 characters long, then you are really going to limit the size of your filenames (this has been improved in SP 2016 and Online.  So remember, short and no spaces.

Next, if you are going to be using custom metadata you will need to enable management of content.  This is accomplished from the list settings -> Advanced Settings -> and changing “Allow management of content types?” to Yes.  After this, you have to add your content type(s).  You can then remove the default Document content type (unless you still want that available.  If you are using more than one content type in your list or library, you may need to determine the most used one and set that as your default.  This is accomplished from List Settings -> “Change new button order and default content type

SharePoint Best Practices - Lists and Libraries - Setting Content Type Order

From there you can select the visible content types (can hide the default if you wish, but if you are not going to use it why keep it?) and place them in the order you want them to be.

There are lots of other options ins a list\library, but I just wanted to cover some of the more common items you are likely to use.  There is really a lot to consider.  I might look at doing a List and Library break down in the future to discuss all the different options and what they can do for you.  Let me know what you think.  Any gotchas you want to share?


Thanks for Reading!!