Media Net Link

Dynamic Online Catalog

An online product catalog is a useful and convenient way for customers to browse for, compare, and gather information about a line of products. A good product catalog should provide all the data and information a customer needs in a clear and consistent fashion.

For a large product catalog, however, the problem of data management arises. Often, data is shared between multiple products within a product line, and if that data changes then all parts referencing that data must reflect the change. If the information is not kept consistent, the product catalog will rapidly become useless, as customers will be confused by conflicting and inaccurate data.

Tyco Electronics recently needed to address this situation. Managing the product selector for their growing line of electronics components quickly became cumbersome and prone to errors. They called on Media Net Link to help them solve this problem.

Click to view full sizeSolution:
In order to assist Tyco Electronics, Media Net Link analyzed the existing method by which the product selector was updated. Product data came in two forms: a spreadsheet containing product data for all parts (data such as voltages, resistances, and tolerances) and PDF brochures for individual parts. The spreadsheet was processed by a parser script which then updated the database, while the PDF files were manually uploaded to the webserver.

Media Net Link immediately recogized the potential for improvement. The existing product selector database did not have any provision for data validation. The two forms of data remained separate throughout the process, creating the possibility of inconsistent data. For example, suppose the spreadsheet contained data for part number HB101. Within the spreadsheet is a reference to that part's brochure whose filename is HB101.pdf. Now suppose that the accompanying PDF file is (erroneously) named HB101.pdf. After processing, the web server would direct a user to the nonexistent file HB101.pdf!

Another potential error stems from typographical errors within the data spreadsheet. Parts belong to various product families, each with their own designation (e.g. AGR, LVR, nanoSMD, and others). The product selector allows users to search for parts based on product family. But what happens if the product family is incorrectly entered on the spreadsheet? For example, instead of having "nanoSMD" in a table cell, a part might have the mistyped product family "nanSMD". When loaded into the database (which, as noted above, did not perform data validation), the erroneous data would prevent that part from showing up on a search for all "nanoSMD" parts.

Click to view full sizeHaving assessed the situation, Media Net Link implemented an administrative interface for Tyco Electronics. Without having to perform a time-consuming and costly overhaul of their existing database and web applications, Media Net Link created a system that would ensure consistent data within the product catalog. This was achieved by creating an administration database which managed both product data and document data and ensured consistency throughout the system.

How does Media Net Link's solution address the aforementioned issues? In the first example, the problem was an inconsistency between a filename on the server and the filename referenced in the database. Using the new system, the administrator would first upload the PDF file to the document manager and give it an identifying title. In this case, the uploaded file is HB-101.pdf, and the administrator gives it the title "Brochure for HB101". Next, the administrator uses the administration page to edit part HB101, and associates the document titled "Brochure for HB101" with that part. Because the system is aware of that particular document, it links the two together in a consistent fashion. Should the filename for "Brochure for HB101" change, the administration interface would automatically reference the new file.

For the second example, the administration interface provides a fixed list of possible product families, thereby preventing an erroneous entry.

Media Net Link's experts can analyze your web presence and find ways to optimize the end user experience, which translates into increased business and improved customer satisfaction. Using Media Net Link's proven data validation skills, your business can rest assured that customers will be able to get the information they need, when they need it -- without errors or delay.

"Without having to perform a time-consuming and costly overhaul of their existing database and web applications, Media Net Link converted an error-prone data entry and storage method into reliable system to ensure that Tyco' Electronics' online product catalog is complete and accurate."