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Beginner’s Guide: Understanding Magento Attributes

Dealing with Magento for the first time, you might be confused about the notion of attributes. Non-experienced users treat ‘attributes’ as some specific characteristics of products, the things that define their peculiarities, for example, color, size, material for clothing, disk space and RAM for Computers etc. Very often they consider sku, description, status, visibility etc. as different entities, calling them - product details and, basically, taking them for granted, since each product has them. Well, this concept is not correct.


In Magento all the information that in any way characterizes the product and is used while its creation is an attribute. So color and material is attribute as well as status and description, since all of these parameters are used to determine and describe the product at your store.


Although this may seem a bit abstract, so let’s look into the matter of Magento attribute notions more deeply.


What is Magento Attribute?

Generally, it is any information that in any way characterizes and describes the product in Magento. So it is possible to say that all product-related information is expressed in the form of attributes. Different attributes determine how your goods can be used in your catalog and how they appear throughout your store.


Why Are Magento Attributes Important?

Here’s what makes attributes critical to your web store:

  • they are created to adapt your product and in many cases this is the reason why clients turn to Magento
  • attributes provide almost limitless ability to control the products
  • you should not write a single line of code to use them
  • also don’t need to add any columns to your database manually, being afraid to break something
  • you can make room for any new information by means of new attribute. By default Magento provides a list of 66 product attributes in attribute set, but if you need you can create as many as you need to better characterize your products.

So these are just a few reasons that make Magento attributes one of the most powerful concepts in this shopping platform.


Where are All Magento Attributes Located?

As was mentioned above, there are attributes that already exist in Magento by default and their list can be enhanced with attributes you can create yourself. Go to Catalog ->Attributes -> Manage Attributes and you will see the whole list of them present at your shop. There you will also be able to add new attributes.


Please note, system attribute сan be moved from group to group, but cannot be deleted.

How Attributes are Assigned to Products?

Magento attributes cannot be used for product creation alone until they are not assigned to the attribute set. An attribute set is a collection of attributes used for some specific product type. For instance, you might need to use different attribute sets for Computers and for Shirts, since computers do not have sizes S, M and L and Shirts will hardly be equipped with RAM :).

Another good example with “Size” attribute. When you sell Shoes and Shirts, will in both cases you need to use size. However, it would be much better to separate those and have “Shoe Size” and “Shirt Size” attribute, since they have different values: “Shirt Size” - S, M, L and “Shoe Size” - 26, 27, 28 etc.

So first of all, you need to assign created attributes to the attribute set. Go to Catalog -> Attributes -> Manage Attribute Sets. After that while creating the product, you first will be asked to which attribute set it should belong. The choice of attribute set defines which collection of attributes will be available for newly-created product and what information you will be able to indicate for the product you are about to add.


Products or Attributes - What to Create First?

Attributes should go first. Assign relevant attributes to corresponding attribute sets and only than start adding products.This is logically correct, since if you do not add attributes beforehand, they simply will not be available for newly-created product and you will have to edit it and do the same work twice.


How do Attributes Actually Look Like?

Attributes are different and they can be either visible for clients or serve some inner purposes and left “behind the stage”.

To the attributes that are not visible from client side belong for example SKU, visibility, tax class, meta details etc. They are used for different purposes, but information in them is very important for creation and representation of products at the front-end.

Attributes can be represented at the front-end are more informative and let your client know important details on the product they are viewing. These attributes can be text, numbers, drop-downs with values to select, checkbox, date or image - any format.

Let’s see how some of attributes look at back-end and front-end.


Attribute ‘Name’

Default attribute ‘Name’ in Attributes section (Admin)


Default attribute ‘Name’ in Back-End (Assigned to Product) looks like this -


At front-end attribute ‘Name’ is displayed in this way -


Attributes responsible for Meta Information

These are meta title, meta keywords and meta description attributes in Attributes->Manage Attributes Section of Magento


This is how you can fill in meta information when creating product -

As you may have already guessed, meta data are not visible for ordinary shoppers, but are used for search engines rankings


Attribute ‘Color’ (Created)

This is how it is added to attribute list -


If you have mind set to have multiple selection attribute, you make configurable item


At the front-end you can have such a drop-down


Attributes are cornerstones of Magento, so make sure you use them right to build rich and rewarding product catalog.

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