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Best Practices

5 Common Mistakes When Building Your DAM Category Structure

  • 5 min read

Simrin Purhar is a Customer Success Representative at MediaValet. With a background in both business and computer science, she's able to lead successful system implementations and develop DAM strategies for clients. In her free time, Simrin enjoys hiking and all other outdoor activities.


Creating your category structure is arguably one of the most important steps during your onboarding. It sets the foundation for your metadata strategy and, ultimately, can make or break your DAM implementation. But, while taking the time to build a strong category structure is important, it can also be the cause of major delays in getting your DAM implemented.

As a Customer Success Representative at MediaValet, I’ve helped a large number of organizations with their DAM implementations and seen many projects get delayed due to category structure decisions. Here are the five common challenges I see organizations experience while developing their category structure, and ways you can anticipate, avoid and overcome them.

Not having enough information

As a DAM administrator, one of your tasks is to build a category structure that will represent multiple groups of users and departments within your organization. If you aren’t familiar with each team’s workflows, preferences, and processes, you may run into difficulties with setting up a category structure that’s beneficial to them.

To remedy this, speak with key system users and department champions to gather information on their workflow and current folder structure. With this new-found clarity, it’ll be easier for you to develop a category structure that aligns with user needs and enhances the user experience.  

Quick Tip:
Sometimes it can be intimidating to approach department leaders when you know they’re busy, but keep in mind that the purpose of the meeting is to better tailor the category structure to their team. A bit of effort from them in the short-term will lead to less frustration in the long-term.

Involving too many people

It can be difficult to come to an agreement on a final category structure when you have too many decision-makers involved. The definition of “too many” will vary from organization to organization, but if you find yourself in a multiple-week standstill as a result of an inability to come to an agreement, this may be your team’s downfall.

While a larger team can provide ideas and support in building the category structure, most of these users shouldn’t be involved in the final decision making. The purpose of involving them is so you can gather information to help you make that final decision on your category structure – not for them to make decisions for you. 

Quick Tip:
Depending on the size and complexity of your implementation, sometimes the best decision is to be the sole decision-maker for your organization’s category structure. Listen to each user’s advice and suggestions, but make decisions based on what you think will best benefit the organization as a whole.

Not dividing the project into tasks

Although you don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen, there’s value in slicing your pie into multiple pieces. Translating this into DAM implementation terms – it can be beneficial to split your category structure creation into smaller tasks.

Rather than setting a single completion date for the entire category structure, set shorter milestones for yourself to complete different tasks. It will help keep you on track and make the project less overwhelming. Plus, it’s satisfying to celebrate the small wins as you complete each milestone!

Quick Tip:
Logical category milestones can include breaking your categories down by business unit (i.e. Marketing, Graphic Design), subsets of users (i.e. Sales North America, External Vendors), geography (i.e. Washington, Kentucky), or asset theme (i.e. Branding, Product Images).

Starting from scratch

Often times, DAM administrators make the mistake of starting their category structure with a blank slate. This can make the process feel infinitely more overwhelming and often lead to problems in the long run, as the structure is built entirely from a single person’s perspective.

The best place to start building your category structure is by using your organization’s current folder structure as a base. From there, you can analyze what works and doesn’t work, and add, remove or adapt categories accordingly. This will not only reduce work for you, it can also improve user adoption, as users will already be familiar with the structure.

Quick Tip:
If your organization is currently storing assets in multiple different places – such as on network drives and a legacy DAM – remember to consolidate the folder structures from each of these systems. It will provide you with a clear view of everything that you’ll need to store in your DAM.

Striving for perfection

As the DAM administrator, it’s normal to feel pressure to have your DAM set-up perfectly right from the get-go. But, striving for perfection can stall your project and prevent you from moving onto subsequent steps, such as migrating your assets and creating user groups. Keep in mind that the category structure you implement within your DAM is not set in stone – there’s always the opportunity to make adjustments if needed!

Quick Tip:
Once you have your category structure in place, upload a sample batch of assets in your DAM and have key users experiment with it. Use their feedback to drive any changes and help you reach your goal of category structure perfection.  

While developing your category structure can take some time and effort, it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. If you ever feel stuck and need some advice to get your project back on track, your Customer Success Manager is always here and ready to help.

MediaValet Team