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What Are the Different Types of Metadata Fields?

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What are the different types of metadata fields? 

When you fill out a survey, you aren’t given a long string of questions in paragraph form with one text area for your response. Not only would it be hard for you, the survey taker, to provide all the requested information; but it would also be incredibly time intensive for the survey analyzer to organize and understand all of the response data.

Instead, surveys are organized with questions and corresponding answer fields. All of the survey information has its own designated area, and is easy to access.

Like survey fields, metadata fields organize the individual pieces of data about other data.

What are metadata fields in digital asset management?

Metadata fields in digital asset management (DAM) are populated with terms or information that describe an asset. You can think of it like a question about the asset. What is the filename? What type of photography is it? How would you describe this asset? Who is the photographer?

Some metadata fields — such as filename — may need to accommodate a range of terms or information. Others — such as category — may have a limited number of options. For example, your organization might group photography into 4 buckets: product, lifestyle, culture, and stock. Instead of relying on the user to remember and type that information for each asset, you can create a controlled field that forces the user to choose from a list of options.

Benefits of using metadata fields

Using appropriate metadata fields makes the tagging process more appealing to users, and improves efficiency. In turn, accurate, complete, and filterable metadata improves the search experience; which allows users to find the assets they need to do their job effectively.

Metadata field types

The Widen Collective® offers admins ten different options for structuring each metadata field, depending on the desired input.

Metadata fields can be one of the following:

  1. Autocompleter fields

  2. Checkbox groups (for multiple selections)

  3. Date fields

  4. Dropdown lists (for single selection)

  5. Limited text fields* (256 characters, single line, no carriage returns)

  6. Long text fields (32,000 characters, multi-line, carriage returns)

  7. Multi-select palette fields (multiple selections for large lists)

  8. Numeric fields

  9. Text areas* (10,240 characters, multi-line, carriage returns)

  10. Text fields* (1,280 characters, single line, no carriage returns)

When to use open fields

Open metadata fields allow the user to enter information freely, in any combination of letters and numbers. Here is a brief overview of these open fields, and possible uses:

A date field allows a user to enter metadata by selecting a date on a calendar. It can be used for:

  • Expiration date

  • Publishing date

The numeric field allows a user to input only numbers— letters or symbols can not be entered. Uses include:

  • A product ID

  • A job number

The limited text field is a single line with a limit of 256 characters, and is appropriate for:

  • Asset title

  • Single response fields like “Campaign” or “Project Manager”

A text field allows up to 1,280 characters and works well for a caption or a keyword box, such as:

  • An area for time code notes

  • A description field for tagging

Text areas and long text fields can be used for metadata that’s recorded in a paragraph format. These fields permit carriage returns and have a larger character limit (10,240 for text areas and 32,000 for long text fields). Possible uses include:

  • Importing metadata from another source that lacks formatting

  • Complicated legal or contractual metadata

metadata field with open text area

When to use controlled fields

Controlled fields offer a range of benefits, and should be considered whenever possible. The use of controlled fields can streamline the metadata entry process, and improve metadata accuracy through reduced spelling errors. Further, controlled fields, can be used as search filters. The terms for a controlled field are known as a controlled vocabulary, and they should always be listed alphabetically. Here are the controlled metadata field options offered in the Collective:

A checkbox is ideal for a short list with multiple answers, and can be used for:

  • A list of brands or internal teams

  • A list of asset types (logo, presentation, final photo, b-roll video, etc.)

A dropdown is ideal when users need to select one option from a list. Users can type into the dropdown box to quickly select the correct option. Examples include:

  • A list of clients or vendors

  • A list of rights or licensing terms

An autocompleter list looks like a text field but when the user begins typing, it offers options from a controlled values list. Uses include:

  • A very long list in which there is one answer

A palette is good for long lists that can have multiple answers, such as:

  • A list of countries in which the asset can be used

  • A list of products featured in the asset

  • Keywords that can be associated with an asset

palette metadata field example

What about dependent fields?

Dependent fields are tied to another metadata field. They are only visible when the parent field is selected, which creates a more streamlined metadata entry process. All parent fields must be a dropdown format.

Dependent fields can be helpful for rights management. In the example below, the user selects from the dropdown menu. Depending on which option is selected, a new child metadata field is revealed to allow additional information to be entered. The child field can be any metadata format. For example:

  1. All Rights - Unlimited Reuse

  2. Limited Rights - 12 Months Reuse

    • User sees a new field with the expiration details.

  3. Restricted Rights - See Notes

    • User sees a text field with notes explaining the restriction.

  4. Royalty-Free

    • User sees a text field with metadata on the licensing source and copyright.

  5. Editorial Use Only

Dependent fields can also help manage complex keywording, that includes multiple sets of controlled fields. In the example below, a grocery store has controlled fields for each possible food item, with accompanying dependent fields based on the selection.

  1. Bakery

    • User then sees options like bread, bun, croissant, muffin, etc.

      • Based on that selection, the user sees options for bread like white, rye, or whole wheat

  2. Meat and Seafood

    • User then sees options like beef, chicken, fish, shrimp, turkey, etc.

  3. Produce

    • User may see another set of dependent fields like fruit or vegetable

  4. Packaged Goods

    • User sees subcategories for snack, breakfast, baking, baby food, etc.

  5. Beverages

    • Options appear for alcohol, water, soda, juice, coffee, etc

Final notes on metadata fields

Designing a system of metadata fields – or a metadata schema – is the foundation of any successful DAM strategy. But the good news is that metadata fields are easy to experiment with and adjust, so go ahead and get started!

Get in touch to see if the Widen Collective is the right DAM system for you.

Additional resources:

Widen University lesson: Metadata and Categories in the Widen Collective

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 23, 2017 and has been updated to include additional information.

Topics: DAM

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