Metadata best practices

Our introduction to metadata and taxonomy started off the conversation about metadata, what it is, how to use it, and its benefits. But if you’re more clued up on the topic and are looking to implement your own strategy soon, you’ll want to know more about metadata best practices. 

Today we’ll look at four important considerations to keep in mind when developing your digital assets’ metadata, which will ensure your whole organisation can effectively use your digital asset management system. 

First, a quick recap.

What is meta data?

Metadata is essentially ‘data about data’. It is information about the attributes and provenance of individual assets. Metadata can include the date published/created, the creator, file size, category, licence information, and much more.

Why is metadata important?

Having an efficient metadata structure in place ensures that data is FAIR (read more about the FAIR principles here), which means…

Findable — If assets are logically and clearly tagged, users should easily be able to find them by making simple search queries.

Accessible — Once someone finds the data they need, metadata indicates how they can be accessed, possibly including authentication.

Interoperable — The data needs to be able to integrate with other data, workflows and applications.

Reusable — Researchers can understand how the data is structured and how they can use it, meaning it can be easily replicated across different settings.

Four metadata best practices

1.Define fields your team will actually use.

Since metadata is all about making your digital assets easy to use and organise, it’s important to come up with fields that your DAM users will find most useful. This also involves not bombarding your team with a huge number of fields (because as we all know, if the system is complicated they just won’t use it!). It’s therefore best practice to limit the options a user can choose from— try 10-20 fields depending on your use case, as you can always add or remove them later.

These fields will depend on your industry and organisation, but some just starting points include: 

  • Asset name/title
  • Product or part numbers
  • Asset creator, author or owner
  • Asset type
  • The asset's 'subject' - a newspaper archive, for example, may include “politics”, “entertainment”, or “sport”

Keep that idea of usefulness in mind; before choosing to include a metadata field, ask yourself, “Will this metadata provide value to the user?”. 

2.Set your naming conventions (and stick to them!).

Although metadata within your DAM platform allows users to search for digital assets based on simple keyword searches, problems can arise if your naming conventions aren’t properly stuck to. If users are uploading files with different naming styles, things can get complicated (and your data lovers will be furious).

Grammatical inconsistencies like tenses, plurals and typos can cause havoc on the organisation of your DAM, so set out guidelines when you roll out the platform, and ensure they’re stuck to. It’s also worth banning special characters (!/?/£/#) from your naming convention, as they may have a codified meaning to the operating system.

3.Never stop updating your metadata.

Establishing metadata for your entire organisation/archive/collection is a mammoth task, so even by the time you’re happy with V1, it’s likely to need updating again! Your DAM will evolve and grow as your organisation does, so it’s important for your metadata scheme to be adaptable with it.

This also takes the pressure off getting your first iteration perfect. If any fields you initially thought were important end up not being used, just remove them. Equally, if you get requests from your team for new fields, they can be added. 

With Aetopia, you can view reports on how your digital assets are being used, and how users are searching for them. This insight is invaluable for DAM managers who are tasked with continually updating the platform. 

4.Provide thorough training for all users. 

Perhaps the most important consideration when rolling out your platform is training, and the success of your DAM implementation and subsequent adoption hinges on this.

You should create a concise metadata standards document and make sure everyone who'll be using the system understands it and why it's so important.

Getting the whole team involved in the process for defining your metadata schema will help ensure digital assets are categorised in the right way, and importantly encourages participation as the whole team will feel responsible for the upkeep.

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