Products Is Not An Example Of A Stock-Keeping Unit Sku Image File Organization – Best Practices for an Effective Product Information Management System

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Image File Organization – Best Practices for an Effective Product Information Management System

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency!

Publication software, web design software, and catalog software all strive to develop one key thing above all, consistency. Consistency is the key to developing a clear, scalable, and streamlined content management system. Product information management systems are no different. The best catalog software is powerful enough to promote a consistent layout throughout the catalog but powerful enough to not hinder the stylistic decisions of the content developers.

Consistency in the end product is a key element in good catalog design, and that is well known. However, good Product Information Management (PIM) systems also promote consistency in file and folder naming as well to effectively manage external documents. In this article, we will discuss a methodology to manage images with the same consistent organization as your SKU numbering. Finding images can be a challenge without a proper naming convention. These recommendations will help you quickly find and manage your images so that you can more effectively utilize your catalog software.

Image formats – Pick It and Stick with It:

There are plenty of image formats out there. A few of the most common ones that catalog software can handle include: jpg, png, tif, and gif. They each have slight variations in their features. For example, tif supports image layering which makes it easier edit the image, and it tends to be easier to manage transparency layers with gif and png files. That said, most often their differences are a moot point.

More useful than picking the optimal format for each image is maintaining image consistency. This saves a considerable amount of time and ensures that your catalog viewers get a consistent experience. This also helps you manage and browse your files within your catalog software.

If you do not already have best practices guidelines for image formats, feel free to use the following setup:

  • Print Images – Use.tif
  • Web Images – Use.jpg
  • Web Image Thumbnails – Use.jpg; a tag such as ‘-thumb’ should also be included to identify that the image is a thumbnail

Be sure to check with your catalog software provider for formats best suited for your catalog software. Also, it is worth checking what optimizations and automations are available from your catalog software such as automatic web thumbnail creation or automatic conversion of print images to web images.

Use Names to Build Bridges

The success of the SKU, or stock-keeping unit, methodology for uniquely and systematically organizing and numerically identifying products has become so ubiquitous that it has become an afterthought. If you are managing any reasonable quantity of products in your print catalog you should already be using SKUs to manage your products and expect your catalog software to do the same.

This same powerful numerical system should be used to help you manage your images in your print catalog software. You can do this by naming your image files with their SKU number. For example, if you sell a Bigfoot costume with the SKU 01234. Then you should label your image ‘01234.jpg’ or ‘01234.tif’ (or whatever image format you decide to use with your print catalog software). You could, optionally, put a little description in the label e.g., ‘01234-bigfootcostume.jpg’ but as long as you have an SKU number, you should be able to easily identify which images go with which products quickly and easily when building your print catalogs in your chosen print catalog software.

Categorize with Directories

Having a logical, systematic, and sparing system of organizing your product information is a good habit to have from the start that pays of in the long run. As your print catalog becomes more and more massive, it takes more and more time to sort through the plethora of documents and images related to each product. For images, the goal is to find a balance between disarray and obsessive categorization that requires takes too long to maintenance.

I have worked on developing catalogs in the past where the images were all dumped into a single directory. Although the print catalog software allowed me to browse through the picture thumbnails, the pictures were not organized by categories. I could have built these print catalog pages a lot more quickly if the images were categorized in an easy to locate fashion.

That said the other end, the other end of the spectrum would be much worse. Firstly, it would take a significant amount of time to sort the images into an over-extensive directory tree. Secondly, clicking through the directory structure can also take a small amount of time that adds up as more pages are made. Like print catalog software, categorization systems should save you time when you build your print catalog, not fill it up with administrative or technical overhead.

A happy balance would be somewhere in between. We recommend the following:

Under one master directory for images have a couple of directories by top level categories. This keeps images organized and avoids too many directories. Try not to create multiple levels of sub-categories. Images are easy to find by thumbnails and even easier if you use the SKU system mentioned previously. Searching through directories too many levels deep can waste time, so try not creating too many levels of directories.

All That Other Jazz

Products are not the only image in your print catalog and your print catalog software needs to manage other features such as vendor logos, swatches, standards and trade logos, etc. Some print catalog software has specific ways in which they want these files to be handled and you should consult your provider for more information. However, in almost every case, it is generally good practice to give it an explicitly descriptive name keep the files in a separate directory from your print catalog products.

In the end of the day, your goal is to get an efficient Product Information Management (PIM) system that helps you build your catalog quickly and intuitively. Having an image categorization system that helps you quickly manage and link your images in your print catalog software is a crucial part of developing a dynamic and scalable PIM system. The above guidelines should set you well on your way towards this goal. That said, we also recommend that you check with your individual print catalog software provider to see what standards and recommendations they have to help you optimize your image formats and organizations with your print catalog software.

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