Be Shallow

Be Shallow

Do you want a secret that will make you 10x more productive?

Of course you do. As a programmer, you’re designed to look for better, faster, more efficient solutions to all life’s problems. It’s in your nature, and if you could be 10x faster, you would at least be curious.

Does This Sound Familiar

You start working on a rather large code base. The previous developers did their best to organize the project into nice subfolders, and more subfolders. Maybe it looks something like a project I worked on many years ago.

├── docker
├── public
│   ├── admin
│   └── client
├── reports
└── src
    ├── __tests__
    ├── contract
    │   └── client
    ├── errors
    ├── graphql
    │   ├── admin
    │   │   └── resolvers
    │   └── client
    │       └── resolvers
    ├── middleware
    ├── models
    │   └── __tests__
    ├── samples
    │   ├── admin
    │   └── client
    └── services
        ├── __mocks__
        └── __tests__

Organized and neatly separating the different types of files.

But Why Do This?

Ask yourself. Does this help you find files faster?, maybe it helps so you can Drill into folders with your IDE?. Is there a real reason to organize files in neat directories. Is it more performant?


Problems with deeply nested directories

  • Lots of ../../../server/models/ in your code to pull in that one file from a completely different location. That should be a smell right there. If the code base really was organized well, this would not happen. But in reality, code is not easy to file into hierarchy forms like a directory structure. 🙈

  • If you use an IDE, then clicking on folders to open them up to get to your file. This is time consuming and horribly inefficient. More on this later. ⌛

  • For a large enough project, where to place files becomes ambiguous. What if a file is used by both client and admin code? Now you feel the need to create a common directory to hold the files needed by both. 💣

  • On the command line, moving around this file structure is tedious. 🕐

  • Files can easily be lost, orphaned or duplicated 😱.

A Better Way

Remember the one rule

All files should only be one directory deep

▸ __tests__/
▸ consumers/
▸ contracts/
▸ coverage/
▸ errors/
▸ gql/
▸ middleware/
▸ migrations/
▸ models/
▸ node_modules/
▸ resolvers/
▸ scripts/
▸ seeds/
▸ server/
▸ services/
▸ static/
▸ templates/
  • The root of your project will have directories that are only one level deep
  • Use file naming conventions in your directories to group like files. For example in my models directory you see files
    ▸ models/
        ├── person-email.js
        ├── person-location.js
        ├── person-note.js
        ├── person-phone.js
        ├── person.js
        ├── pet-rate.js
        ├── phone.js
        ├── property-age-groups.js
        ├── property-amenity.js
        ├── property-email.js
        ├── property-image.js
        ├── property-location.js
        └── property-order-addon.js
  • Now all your files are just one directory away, the most you’ll see is ../models/phone.js
  • Refactoring becomes easier since all your similar files are in the same directory. No need to worry about creating complex nested folder searches.
  • You’ll soon see how easy it is to find files, reference them, create new files, and navigate your project like a pro.

Using the Mouse / Trackpad to open files?

Remember earlier I said, this trick will make you 10x faster, well, for you Madam or Sir Clicks-a-Lot, this suggestion will improve your productivity better than 100x. Use the keyboard to fuzzy find files to open.

  • VSCode: ⌘ + p will open the file finder for the project. It should be fuzzy find so just type a few unique letter combinations
  • Vim: You should be using the FZF
  • WebStorm: ⇧ ⇧, Shift Shift will open up the file finder


Be a Shallow Developer. Keep your file hierarchy shallow, one level deep. There may be times you need to go two levels, but make it the exception, not the rule.