Ryan Burnette

Project Directory Structure: Assets

There isn’t one right answer when it comes to a project’s directory structure, especially if it’s a solo project, but it is important if everyone is on the same page. In this article, I’ll explain the purpose of the assets directory in the context of the projects I work on.

Front-end Assets

By definition, everything in the project is an asset. What I mean by “assets” could be succinctly expanded to “front-end assets.”

Build

Front-end assets almost always include build steps. Stylesheets are CSS in the browser but start as SCSS or Sass. Browser JavaScript is rarely shipped in the form in which it was written. Even if you’re a minimalist such as myself, avoiding the need for Babel by sticking to an old syntax, the browser JavaScript is probably being packaged by something like Webpack.

Having a separate assets directory can help keep the front-end development and build dependencies separate from the main body of the project. This is especially valuable in Node.js projects, where you might pollute your node_modules directory with thousands of unnecessary dependencies in production where the assets have been pre-built or built once during the deployment of that release.

Source and Dist

I assume the direct descendents of my assets directory to be the source. I could be explicity by putting a src or source directory underneath the assets, but I usually dont.

The build step is going to release the distributable front-end assets, which could be placed in a dist directory that is a direct descendent of the assets, but it might be placed elsewhere. In a Hugo project, for example, the front-end assets would build to the public directory located one-level above the assets. In a Node.js project, they might build to a dist directory underneath assets while a handler searches for those assets in place. It just depends on the project. It’s good to be flexible in this regard.

Summary

  • The assets directory is a place for front-end assets.
  • Children of that directory are source, or static.
  • The build stack for assets is also relegated to this directory.
  • The dist ends up where it makes sense for that type of project.