Each set of drop-down options used in a configurable product is based on a product attribute. The dropdown attributes must be set up in advance and loaded with values, before the configurable product record is created. Then, an associated simple product can be automatically generated for each value in the drop-down list. Using the example of a tee shirt that is available in three colors and three sizes, it takes nine associated simple product records to cover every possible combination of options:
Because attributes exist independently of the product record, they can be shared with other products and product types. For example, if your store already has an attribute for color, you don’t need to create another one for each product. However, you do need to add the appropriate color values to the existing “color” attribute, so they will be available as options for your product. If you have a large catalog with many items that share common attributes, begin able to reuse attributes can save a significant amount of time.
The drop-down attributes are then included in an attribute set, which is used as a template to create the configurable product and its associated products.
The next step in the process is to create the configurable product record, based on the attribute set you prepared and complete the basic required fields.
The final part of the process is to add an associated product for each variation. The associated products can be generated automatically from the configurable product record. Each associated product is actually a separate simple product, and is based on the same attribute set that was used to create the configurable product. When the process is complete, you will have a coordinated set of simple products&emdash;one for each option&emdash;and one configurable product in your catalog.