Blog header image: Building a Digital Asset Management Taxonomy article.
Brand Management

Building a Digital Asset Management Taxonomy

August 22, 2022 8 minute read
In this guide, you’ll learn about digital asset management taxonomy, and how it can make your assets more searchable and discoverable.
Blog header image: Building a Digital Asset Management Taxonomy article.

It takes a lot of work to implement and manage a digital asset management (DAM) system. From integrating your DAM platform with other technologies to organizing your product images, sell sheets, videos, branded graphics, and other assets. Getting the most out of your DAM solution requires maintenance and optimization – including creating a taxonomy that’s easy to navigate and evolve. 

One of the common goals of using a DAM system is to make content easier for everyone to find and access. While some people will use the search bar powered by metadata, others might prefer to rely on category navigation. That’s where your taxonomy will shine. 

Here’s everything you need to know about DAM taxonomy and how to build one that makes your digital assets easier to find. 

What is taxonomy?

Taxonomy is the way in which objects are classified, or for our purposes, the way digital assets are categorized in a DAM system. It’s a simple parent/child hierarchy that people can use to quickly navigate to the right content.

Your taxonomy will be unique to your brand and your content needs. You might choose to make your top-level (parent) categories business units, or you might group everything by asset type. If this is your first DAM platform, you could even choose to mirror an existing folder structure to help with user adoption. It really depends on how your DAM system is used and who’s using it. Deciding on an effective taxonomy will provide users with multiple ways to navigate to assets so they can quickly find the file they need.

Why is DAM taxonomy important?

The implementation of a taxonomy structure is a common DAM practice. The option to leverage categories, metadata, or a combination of both depends on your users’ needs and will directly impact the searchability and discoverability of your assets. If your users are used to a folder structure, categories can make for an easier transition. Using a combination of categories and metadata offers a lot of flexibility as well. 

What if someone isn’t sure about what asset they need? Having a digital asset taxonomy in place makes it easy for users to discover an asset they might not even know exists. For example, say a marketer is looking for a photo for a presentation but they don’t have a specific image in mind. Offering the option to discover new assets using categories and filterable metadata helps users source assets that might not even be on their radar. 

Everyone will have a different format that works well for their organization. What’s important is that your taxonomy makes it easy to find content in your DAM platform when you need it. Let’s explore some best practices you can consider to zero in on the right taxonomy structure for your brand. 

DAM taxonomy best practices

It’s likely that you already have some ideas about how to build your taxonomy. With a few best practices, you can pressure check them to make sure you’ve got the right framework to move forward.

1. Know your users

Everyone navigates differently. That’s why it’s important to get feedback from the people who use your DAM site the most. Take time to understand how they find their digital assets currently. Where do the assets they use live? Do they search or navigate through existing categories? You should also ask your users what they’re ideal taxonomy is.

Asking your users for feedback is the most direct way to understand what they need. Knowing which questions to ask so you get the answers you need can be tricky, but allowing time for follow up conversations will help a lot. You can start by creating a survey about your current and future taxonomy. Learn how easy it is to find things, what the biggest problems are, and what their wishes are. You might get confirmation that your current taxonomy only needs some small adjustments or discover a whole new way to organize. 

2. Audit your assets

Before you can categorize your assets, you need to know what assets you have. Whether you’re adjusting the taxonomy structure in your current site or starting from scratch, you’ll want to do an audit of your assets so you know what you’re working with. If you’re setting up a new site, gather your assets based on your site’s short- and long-term goals. This will allow you to put together a picture of what your taxonomy will look like at launch and what you might need to consider for the future. If you already have a platform in place, your approach will be slightly different. 

Your existing site likely already has a taxonomy structure, so that’s a great place to start. But do all of your assets have a home within that structure? Conducting a site audit using analytics tools in your DAM solution will help you take a look at what isn’t being used or what might not fall into a category currently. Once you have an overview of all your assets — new and existing — and how they’re being engaged with, you can start to see the taxonomy possibilities. 

3. Identify top categories

Your top categories could be based on several factors. Maybe they’re the categories with the most assets? Or maybe they’re the categories that are used the most? Those two things could also be one in the same. Perhaps your top categories will be driven by business priorities rather than usage — it just depends on your definition of “top.” 

Identifying your top categories will likely impact their placement in your system too. For example, you might want to highlight them on your dashboard. Or, you could opt to lead with them in your structure while the rest of the categories file in alphabetically. Knowing your top categories can also help determine the terms that will be used at the parent level and which ones will be a child category. To answer these questions, consider how your users will be navigating within the system each day and also keep in mind the category functionality options within your specific tool — including how your admin will add and edit assets within these categories

4. Establish taxonomy and file naming conventions

Now that you’ve got your top categories determined, it’s time to choose a taxonomy structure. Decide which categories stay at the top level (parent) and which are one level down (child). Here are a few examples of what that looks like:

Brand identity > Company logos

Marketing campaigns > Product launch images

Merchandising > Product videos

Once you get started, you’ll likely start to see patterns in your assets and natural categories for them to live in. As these categories take shape, you might also take this time to start thinking about file naming conventions. Perhaps your file name aligns with your taxonomy or maybe you use file names as an opportunity to highlight other important information about your assets. 

Connecting your categories and file naming structures can also help with metadata mapping, making metadata tagging easier, faster, and potentially automated. Thinking about taxonomy, file names, and metadata in tandem at the beginning can be especially helpful when it’s time to elevate your system’s maturity through automation and integrations. 

5. Launch

Once you have buy-in for your taxonomy, it’s time to implement it in your DAM system and launch. But don’t just push changes without informing your users it’s happening. Send an email ahead of time announcing the new taxonomy and let everyone know what’s coming. You can even offer training courses or initiate other ways, like contests, to get people into the system and using the new structure.

Once you’ve launched, start tracking usage analytics to see how effective the new categories are. After a few weeks pass, send out another survey to ask what your users think. Change management takes time though. So it’s OK to sit with some of the feedback for a while before making any big changes. What seems like a sticking point one or two weeks in might just be a learning curve.  

Getting started

Your DAM taxonomy plays a big role in the findability and discoverability of your assets, that’s why it’s vital to provide a taxonomy structure that’s simple, clear, and created specifically for your users. Using these DAM taxonomy best practices to get started will help you create and launch your next DAM site structure.

Whether you’re implementing your first DAM solution, migrating from another system, or making adjustments to your current structure, these tips are a great jumping-off point. And if you’re searching for your new or next system, we can help there too. Request, watch, or click through a demo of Acquia DAM (Widen) to see why over 800 brands around the globe trust us to help them manage their digital assets.


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