Magento Attributes

The key to successful e-commerce development: Attributes need to take center stage.

What Are Magento Attributes?

They are the most important set of data you have in Magento. Attributes define price, color, model, year, and a whole array of other items, which are super flexible and very customizable. In many cases, adaptable attributes are the very reason clients turn to Magento.


Why Are Magento Attributes So Important?

Now this is an easy question. Here’s what makes attributes critical to your web store:

  • They build layered (Zappos-esque) navigation in Magento
  • They supply shopping feeds with information you need to succeed in your market space
  • They add important product meta data to the product detail pages
  • They can be used in nearly every Magento extension
  • They empower various omni-channel marketing efforts and sales strategies
  • They can be utilized to build API based web services
  • They are building blocks for your designs, comps, and interactive features

Yeah, I’d say they are pretty important, if not the cornerstone of most Magento development.

Magento Attributes Need to Be a Part of Every Discovery Meeting

After all the dust has settled from a new client meet + greet and preliminary budget talks, the real work begins. One of the first areas we pinpoint happens to be ATTRIBUTES [At·tri·butes]. Snap, it even sounds boring. However, a thorough exploration of a client’s data before any — I repeat — any work is commenced saves everyone inevitable headaches in the future. Exposing the data will help everyone and should never be dismissed or pushed back to later stages.

Here are some initial questions* we ask after we helping new client understand what attributes are.

  1. Which attributes should be part of your layered navigation — for filtering and sorting?
  2. Which attributes should be searchable?
  3. Which attributes should be on the product detail page? How about the category page?
  4. Which attributes build configurables?
  5. Where do all your attributes live? Which database and where?
  6. Can you send us a sample product or export from a current store?
  7. Are there attributes that you need built or populated in the new store?

Naturally, some common sense goes into all this stuff, such as creating attribute sets by the “type” of size (e.g. letters vs. numbers) or setting up various color sets for different channels of products.

So Many Shoes: How We Created Attributes in an 80,000-Record Data Dump

Case in point: A client gave us a huge excel of shoe data in anticipation of moving their shopping cart to Magento. The file was massive. We are talking 80,000 records. Much to the client’s delight, we took each column in that product export and turned it into an attribute.

Here is an example: [Material]

A column for “material” was in the export. What we did was create a new attribute for material and associate that to the running shoe attribute set.

It needed to be searchable, it was not going to be unique, it would be a part of layered navigation, it would be mapped to Google Shopping [material] for the feeds, it would serve as a promotion in Magento’s catalog, and it would be used in an advanced search query for future marketing.

Wow, all this from just one column! We sat down with them and in a very short time the client knew  what each column meant to their Magento migration. We could then create a central sheet to guide the developers. This made design, development, and QA so so much easier.

So when you are sitting at a big conference table listening to people focus on all the cool features a web store should have, remember that a discussion on attributes needs to take place too.

* This is just a sample set. It is not an all inclusive list for every client.