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How to Setup and Manage Magento Categories and Products

With Magento you can organise your e-commerce website into categories. Think of these categories like departments in a catalog. Each department will then contain products. It's good to have a clear image in your mind how you'll structure your website in order to optimise the full customer flow from the front page to the product in the checkout. This guide will help demonstrate the process of adding categories and products to your website.

Adding Categories

Step 1 - Enter the Magento Admin Panel category area

Once you have logged into your Magento Admin panel, mouse hover over 'Catalog' from the top main navigation menu and then choose 'Manage Categories' as show below:

Step 2 - Add a New Category

Down the left hand side of the manage category section, you will find the categories that are currently set up. By default we have a 'Default Category' set up as our 'root' category. It's important to understand that the root category plays an important role as our category container. Any new categories added should always be a subcategory to our root category.

To add a new category to the website, choose the 'Add Subcategory' button shown down the left hand side of the website as shown below:

On our new subcategory, you will see:

These options can be explained as follows:

  • Name - this section will be the name of your category. For example if you are planning on selling clothes on your website, something as simple as 'Clothes' should suffice.
  • Is Active - throughout Magento, you'll have the option to turn options and items on and off. This 'active' option indicates whether you want the new category turned on, which will mean that it will become viewable to guests on your website.
  • URL key (optional) - more users for experienced users, but this section to dictate what URL will load if someone clicks on your new category. For example if we named the URL key new-clothes, Magento will load You can specify your own URL key or you can let Magento take care of that and automatically name it the same as your category name which is recommended.
  • Description (optional) - if you want to write some text for customers to see on your category page, you can do so by putting that information here.
  • Image (optional) - if you would like an image on your category, you can select 'Choose File' and locate one on your system.
  • Page Title (optional) - the page title will be what customers will see at the top of their browser window or if they find the category from a search engine.
  • Meta Keywords (optional) - if you've ever read anything to do with 'SEO', or search engine optimisation, you would have learnt that 'keywords' may help towards the ranking of your website in search engines. For example, if you wanted to attract customers to your exclusive clothing range, you could write a keyword for that range. The idea is then if someone is using a search engine to find that range, your page would hopefully appear as one of the primary results to choose from.
  • Meta Description (optional) - similar to meta keywords, a meta description is thought to help attract customers to your website via a search engine. Just think of yourself searching for something online - the search results shows a snippet of what to expect. You can write something here that might lure a customer in.
  • Include in Navigation Menu Keywords - it is this option that will build your website navigation which we will be referring to in more detail later. Setting this to 'Yes' will make a link to the category appear at the top of your website.

Once you have written the information that you feel is best, create the new category by choosing the 'Save Category' button in the top right corner of the website. At this stage don't worry too much about it being accurate. Shortly, we will be covering how to update a category once it has been created.

Once the category saves and refreshes the page, we can now see that our new category appears down the left hand side and that it fits nicely inside our main root category. It's worth adding that the counter next to our category name references how many products that category has. Obviously at the moment we haven't created any, so that information shows '0'.

Step 3 - Review the New Category

How will the new category (our example is named 'Clothes) work on the website? It's time to find out. If you now view your website (or refresh if you are already on it), you will find at the top in the navigation menu:

Our new category name has appeared. Now if we click onto that category name:

We can see the category page. Just under our main navigation link we can now see that Magento has taken care of our 'breadcrumb' links showing 'Home / Category Name'. At the moment we don't have any products set up in that category and we will come onto that shortly.

Step 4 - Add a New Subcategory

Magento can allow us to nest categories into another, creating subcategories and navigation submenus, so let's next create another category into our new category to see how the site behaves.

We head back into the Magento Admin panel and again follow the 'Catalog' -> 'Manage Categories' menu.

What we're aiming to do is create a subcategory again but this time we want it to be held inside the new category that we just created. In the example we've created 'Clothes'. So from the left hand side, we need to firstly click 'Clothes'. Once we've focused this on a category, we can then choose the 'Add Subcategory' button.

This action then brings us back to the familiar screen where we can create a new category (like we did a few stages back). This time in our example we're going to create 'T-Shirts' inside our existing 'Clothes' category.

Once you've completed the information, select the 'Save Category' button positioned in the top right area.

Down the left hand side in the category list, we can now see how the structure of the categories is forming. We have our main category holder 'Default Category', followed by a primary category 'Clothes' and then a secondary category 'T-Shirts'.

Step 5 - Review the New Subcategory

Going back to our website, if we refresh the page and mouse hover over our primary category, we can see how the navigation menu is shaping.

As per our category structure, we can see that the main category 'Clothes' is still present with the secondary subcategory 'T-Shirts' inside. This is where our category options make more sense. When we created a new category, we specified 'Include in Navigation Menu' as 'Yes'. If you wanted to change this and you didn't want it to show, switching this option to 'No' would remove it from the navigation menu.

It's also worth taking another look at our main category 'Clothes'.

You can see down the left hand side, we can now see a 'Browse By' section that has appeared which enables customers to refine the results without having to go back to the original navigation menu. As we start building products, this 'filter' plays an important role helping customers find the product they are looking for or explore further sections of the website.

What should we do if want to revise the new category that has been created?

Step 6 - Updating a Category

Head back into the Magento Admin panel and again follow the 'Catalog' -> 'Manage Categories' menu, like the following shows:

From the left hand side, as shown below, we next need to select the category that we would like to update. For this example, we're going to demonstrate the 'T-Shirts' subcategory. As this is nested inside our main 'Clothes' category, we firstly need to select the '+' icon to open the menu. Next click the 'T-Shirts' category which will load all of the category information.

We're going to update the category description to see how that information looks on our website. Once the adjustment is made, complete by selecting the 'Save Category' button near the top right hand side.

Step 7 - Review Category Update

Now that the category change has been made, it's now time to review how this change takes effect on our main website.

Visit your website again and view the category that the changes were made on.

As we can see above, our category 'Description' has now appeared below the category name. This description can be very useful for customers and for having more control over the category look and feel. This area is completely configurable albeit using the wysiwyg edit, HTML markup, plain text or images.

Now that we've covered the basics about categories, we should start creating some products so we can see how that part comes to life.

Adding Products

Step 1 - Enter the Magento Admin Panel product area

Adding new products to the website obviously plays an important part in building up the e-commerce store. Magento allows us to create a variety of different product types, from simple physical products to downloadable electric products.

To add a new product, from the top admin panel menu, choose 'Catalog' followed by 'Manage Products' as the below shows:

Shortly you'll learn that this section is the main holding section of Magento where all of your products appear. Here you'll often drop by to add new products, adjust products, manage quantities and prices.

Step 2 - Add a New Product

To create a new product, choose the 'Add Products' button positioned in the top right corner as shown below:

As explained earlier, Magento allows us to create a variety of products. For the sake of this tutorial, we're going to keep things simple and create a straight forward 'Simple Product'. By this we mean a non-configurable item. Nothing that requires any special options that we need to present to the customer such as sizing or colour.

The default options are exactly what we intend on creating. Choose the 'Continue' button as shown below to proceed.

At a first glance, the new product page looks very long winded. We have a lot of menu options down the left and some large text areas to the right as seen below.

Step 3 - Complete the New Product information

The options can initially be quite comprehensive, but honestly this is a good thing. Magento gives us many configurable options that you'll come to use once you are more comfortable with the basics. On topic, let's look at those basics that we need to complete. Please note there are many optional extras that we can add but we're for the time being going to overlook those.

  • Name - this part will be the name of our product that customers will see.
  • Description - Magento splits product descriptions into 2 parts; description and short description. The description is considered the more comprehensive part of the product, such as technical information or additional information.
  • Short Description - the short description is the information that will appear at the top of the product page, so this section is ideally what you'd need to write to grasp the customer in. Put the main product information here.
  • SKU - SKU, or part number, is required to be provided. This appears on customer invoices so it can help with stock fulfilment. If you don't have any part numbers set up yet, honestly you can add anything; the product name might be the simplest option.
  • Weight - weight will come into use later when we start reviewing shipping costs. It can be important to set this correctly so the right postage amount is charged to the customer. There's no need to start weighing every product that you have, it doesn't have to be precise.
  • Status - the status means whether the product is viewable on the website or not. Set this to 'Enabled' if you are happy to put the product live. If you feel like you need some time to refine the product, perhaps think about the description more, you can safely set this to 'Disabled'.
  • Visibility - the visibility will define whether the product can be found on the live site search, category pages or not at all. Leaving 'Catalog, Search' as the option is recommended.

The next stage of the product is the price. From the left hand side menu, choose 'Prices'.

Here we need to focus on the price of the product and the tax class.

  • Price - specify the cost of the product in your chosen currency. It's worth noting that if you see a currency that you don't want to use (in this example we're using GBP), you need to review your currency options in the 'System' -> 'Configuration' -> 'Currency Setup' section.
  • Tax Class - is the product that you are selling taxable / have VAT on? If so, drop the option choose 'Taxable Goods' otherwise set this to 'None'.

The next stage of the product is specifying how much stock of the product you have and whether it's available to order. From the left hand side menu, choose 'Inventory'.

  • Qty - the quantity of the product that you have.
  • Stock Availability - this isn't a required setting but it's often one that is overlooked. If you've set a quantity amount, set the stock availability to 'In Stock'.

The final stage of the product is choosing what category you want the product to appear in. From the left hand side menu, choose 'Categories'.

Remember from earlier when we set up our categories? It's here that they came into use. From our new product page, we can choose which categories we want it to appear in. It's important to include the root 'Default Category' as that's our main category holder. You can then tick the remaining categories which you want the product to appear.

We are now happy to save our new product. In the top right corner, we have two save options; save or save and continue to edit. Save will save and close the product view, save and continue to edit will save the changes thus far and retain the product view option. Our example below we highlight the 'Save' option.

Success! You've just created your first new product.

Step 4 - Review the New Product

It's now time to take a look at your website to see how the information has appeared. Go back to your main website and enter the category where you just added your product to.

Straight away we can see that the category has come to life with our product. We can see the product title and price in the 'grid' system that Magento has. From the category a customer can 'Add to Cart'. We can also see the page pagination options so a customer can navigate subsequent product pages if available. It's worth noting that the pagination options are configurable later if need be.

Click on your product name to see how the product view looks.

On our product page we can see down the right again the product name and price. We can see that the product is in stock which came from our inventory options. Further down we can see our 'short description' of the product that we wrote. Going down to the bottom of the product, we can see the 'description' that was written.

When we created our product, initially we didn't set up an image for our product which is why we can see the default Magento logo. We can head back into the product management to see how we can revise the product and add that photo.

Step 5 - Updating a Product

Product management is essential and you will find to begin with that you'll likely make many modifications to your new products, especially if you are new to Magento and learning about the many options that are available.

To update a product, from the top admin panel menu, choose ‘Catalog’ followed by ‘Manage Products’ as the below shows:

In the manage products holding as shown below, you will find all of the products that your store has. Locate the product that you wish to update and mouse click onto it.

Once the product has loaded, you will recognise the same options that you typed when you first created the product.

Again down the left hand side are all of the product menu options. You can adjust any of the options and complete the process by selecting 'Save' afterwards. In our product example though, what we wanted to revise was the product image and select a photo that was appropriate. To do this, we head into the 'Images' menu from the left hand side menu.

The image menu shows us what photos are currently on the product. Obviously as our example doesn't have any, 'No image' is shown. We need to upload an image from our file system. To do this, select the 'Browse Files..' button. Please note that if you don't see this button, this may be because your system does not have Adobe Flash Player installed. Check out the Adobe website for diagnostics if you are unsure.

Once you have selected a photo from your file system, select the 'Upload Files' button. When the file is uploaded, you should see the new image record on your product. What we want to do is set the image up as the main product image so it shows up automatically where ever the product is shown. To do this, select the radio buttons below the 'Base Image', 'Small Image' and 'Thumbnail' options, like such:

Complete the product change by selecting the 'Save' button near the top right corner.

Step 6 - Review Product Update

It's now time to check back on the main website and see that our change has worked. If we view our category, we can see our new image is set as the 'thumbnail'.

If we then click onto the product, we can also see that the image is the 'Base Image'.

Because we've used the image example, it's worth adding that you can have many images as you like. Subsequent images appear below the 'More Views' section that we can see above.

You can make as many changes as you like to your products, whether that be the price, the inventory, or maybe you want to remove it from the website altogether.

Adding Basic Categories and Products Concluded

Now that you've created basic categories and products in Magento, you can continue building up your store catalog by repeating the steps shown.

The next stage on building up your Magento store is learning how to build up and modify page content, such as that important homepage, and many more key pages that will play important roles throughout the rest of the website.

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