Taxonomy for Technical Non-Profit

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As part of a complete website redesign, this non-profit needed to consolidate existing taxonomies and create an up-to-date taxonomy for use on their new website. Here’s a look at how we approached this project.


Given that this non-profit dealt with a highly technical subject matter, understanding the domain and developing an appropriate framework was quite a challenge (but also a lot of fun!).

  • Taxonomy review: We reviewed the different taxonomies within the organization. Different departments and teams used different taxonomies and each was slightly different. Plus, given the technical subject matter, we found that there were quite a few different terms for the same thing or that subject matter experts didn’t always agree on what terms meant.
  • User research: As part of this project, we were able to attend the technical conference. While at this conference, we conducted one-on-one interviews, card sorting focus groups, and had random conversations in the hallways about how people felt about the website and finding information. (I have to say that trying to approach people to ask about the website was rather strange and difficult!)
  • Taxonomy framework: As with most of my taxonomy projects, we created a taxonomy framework to outline how the taxonomy would be structured and developed. During the user research, we learned that given the breadth of the domain, no one person was an expert in the whole domain or could explain the whole domain. This made it quite challenging to develop a cohesive approach. In lieu of this, we picked different subject matter experts for the different sub-domains.
  • Taxonomy development: For the taxonomy development, I build out the taxonomy using existing taxonomies, by doing subject matter expert interviews, and by looking through different technical materials. For the SME interviews, I did approximately 2 interviews per expert, so about 10-12 interviews. I also made sure to add synonyms and alternative terms; because the domain was so large and because we wanted to keep the taxonomy managable, we used the chosen terms to consolidate several concepts together.


At the end of the taxonomy development, the client was prepared to integrate it into the content management system. They had clear instructions for how the taxonomy could be maintained and governed and they were intimately aware of how the taxonomy was developed.

By | 2018-01-16T16:12:22+00:00 September 27th, 2016|Categories: Case Study, Taxonomy|Comments Off on Taxonomy for Technical Non-Profit