When I start working on taxonomy projects, it’s common that some team members don’t understand how taxonomy can help their website’s user experience or the writer’s experience in finding and re-using content. One of the easiest ways to explain how taxonomy works is to show examples of taxonomy. Here are a few examples of how website taxonomy can be used to improve search results, browse by category, and automatically build pages on a website.
Example 1: UXMatters
One common way that taxonomy can be used on a website is to have a category for the different topics discussed on the site and display this list of topics to the user. On the UXMatters website, these topics are exposed in the navigation and on the page.
With this example, the website gives someone easy access to the topics within the site without having to remember the name of each topic. One problem users have when finding information is the problem of “recall vs recognition.” With a blank search box, users have to remember the words they want to search on; a much harder task than picking from a list. With a displayed list of topics, users can recognize words they want to search on. Better yet, they can relate the word they’re searching for to a similar term on the site, which improves their success finding information.
Example 2: BT.co.uk
BT’s Help section provides several different categories. First, you can browse by their product offerings: landline, broadband, TV, mobile. Second, you can browse by different phases of your experience: Learn, Setup, Fix a problem, Manage.
We can imagine that when BT creates its Help content, the articles are tagged with two things: “product” and “customer journey phase.” Topics like “How do I set up my phone manually for BT Mobile?” can appear if it’s the most popular (driven by analytics) and would also automatically appear on the Set Up tab because it’s an article about setting up a mobile phone. In this way, BT wouldn’t have to manually place these pages in the Mobile section or in the tabs. When authors tag the content with Mobile and Setup, it automagically appears in the Mobile>Setup section. When it becomes popular enough, it shows on the “Most Popular” tab.
Example 3: Amazon.com
Sure, Amazon is the class eCommerce example of taxonomy, but it’s still worth using as an example!
When you search on Amazon, your search results can be filtered by different aspects: price, colour, category. Another way to access the products category on Amazon is through their Departments menu. If you go to this menu, you can see everything that Amazon has. Everything in here is a taxonomy category. Instead of maintaining this list by hand, this list is automatically controlled with taxonomy. It’s a huge long list – could you imagine having to maintain this by hand? With so many categories, it would be extremely difficult to compare the list of taxonomy categories to the list of categories displayed here. Could you ever be confident that you had listed them all?
Example 4: LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a website for finding professionals and companies. It’s in their interest to let refine your search results so you find the right person or company.
In this example, I searched for Information Architect and received over 55,000 results. Looking through that many results for the right person is close to impossible. However, LinkedIn allows you to filter by things like industry, seniority level, company size, relationship. This information is collected from each person’s profile; when a user creates a profile, he or she needs to input this information. LinkedIn turns around and displays it in their search so you can refine your search results.