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Build an Effective Taxonomy for Enhanced Findability

Build an Effective Taxonomy for Enhanced Findability

In the ever-evolving landscape of content creation, technical writers are the unsung heroes, churning out materials to support the constant evolution of products and features.

Amidst this dynamic environment, the emergence of similar topics across diverse documents, particularly within component content management systems (CCMSs), is a common challenge. 

This intricacy often gives rise to hurdles in searchability and findability – especially for organizations dealing with extensive documentation and employing content reuse and single-sourcing strategies.

Enter taxonomies—a powerful antidote to these challenges.

Imagine taxonomies as the secret sauce of descriptive metadata seamlessly blended into content to supercharge search efficiency.

Picture taxonomy labels are the sleek tags meticulously applied during content creation. They function like an expertly curated index, presenting users with a streamlined list of reference terms that transform information retrieval into a breeze.

This blog aims to illuminate taxonomies' profound significance and benefits and provide practical insights into their artful creation and management. 

Get ready to unravel the mysteries behind efficient knowledge searchability and take your content game to the next level.

Understand Findability

Traditionally, information retrieval relied on a one-dimensional folder system, which could be time-consuming and often resulted in inaccurate search outcomes.

Vital information was often scattered across different folders, leading to incomplete and fragmented results.

Taxonomies have revolutionized the concept of findability by introducing a multidimensional approach. An entire knowledge base can be indexed using taxonomy tags, transforming information retrieval into a comprehensive process.

In a folder-based search, users navigate through various folders, document names, chapters, and sections, which can be challenging as it requires in-depth familiarity with the information architecture. In reality, only some employees possess this level of expertise.

Most individuals need a more cohesive understanding of information limited to their specific areas of expertise. Only a select few comprehensively view the entire range of topics.

While these experts may excel in folder-based searches, providing a more straightforward information retrieval method for everyone else is essential.

Taxonomy-based search differs from the traditional folder system, allowing content categorization regardless of its location in folders.

Tags, or taxonomy labels, enable users to search for content by category, establishing a metasystem that describes the content structure.

The result? Improved findability. Technical writers can streamline content creation while product users can swiftly find answers to their queries.

Planning Your Taxonomy

Taxonomy planning is closely related to logic or how we conceptualize information. It involves categorization, classification, generalization, and other methods of organizing information. The primary goal of a taxonomy is to mirror human logic; otherwise, the created tags may not effectively connect search input to output.

For example, imagine you have a vast amount of information about flowers. You can index this information using taxonomy tags such as color, shape, aroma, species, perennial/annual plants, inflorescence, and more. Both botanical and general categories can be applied, and the more tags you create, the better.

Expanding the taxonomy's scope enables more precise searches, as additional filters can be applied to search parameters.

When planning a taxonomy, consider your target audience, primarily technical writers and other stakeholders involved in content development and usage.

The best approach is to involve all team members in collaborative brainstorming. Ask team members how they perceive the content and the terms they use. Conduct a simple questionnaire to gather insights; each person will offer a unique perspective.

Creating the Taxonomy

Once your team has finalized the taxonomy tags, it's time to create them. Taxonomy systems are often hierarchical, resembling a branching structure or a tree of terms when visually represented.

On a basic level, a taxonomy structure may appear as separate index entries or a list of references, similar to the organization in the final pages of a book.

A hierarchical structure is established in more complex taxonomies consisting of primary and additional (derivative) terms. Therefore, consider the categories and subcategories that tags may fall under when constructing a taxonomy.

Before implementing the taxonomy, thorough testing is crucial. Consider conducting a usability test, where you review the taxonomy tags to ensure all possible information search methods have been accounted for.

Enhancing Findability with Metadata

Metadata can be defined as 'data used to describe data.' Imagine your content as the foundation of a pyramid, representing a bulk of information.

Metadata forms the upper part of the pyramid, and these elements assist both humans and artificial intelligence in organizing data and turning it into valuable information.

Here's another way: metadata enhances information retrieval from a company's knowledge base. Each piece of content is assigned one or more tags, allowing it to be included in search results. 

Thus, metadata is employed to enhance findability.

Taxonomies provide users with a comprehensive overview by retrieving all content related to a specific concept. The following best practices can be applied when utilizing metadata:

Linking Related Content

Taxonomies establish connections between content items that share the same taxonomic category, even if they are located in different folders or pertain to other topics in terms of navigation.

Multifaceted Navigation

Taxonomies enable users to apply multiple filters during their search, leading to highly focused and specific results.

Search Suggestions

The system can offer results derived from the existing taxonomy as users type their search queries. This feature facilitates the search process, particularly when users encounter difficulties formulating questions.

Maintaining the Taxonomy

Taxonomy management is an ongoing and continuous process that remains active as long as the product exists. The taxonomy scope will expand and evolve, requiring consistent maintenance akin to managing equipment or a machine.

This maintenance is necessary to ensure a proper taxonomy requiring subsequent fixes.

Therefore, building relationships between concepts and continuously determining hierarchical connections is crucial. Taxonomy governance also entails regularly reviewing the taxonomy with all stakeholders involved.

This includes the participation of UXers, who will test the taxonomy from a user's perspective. The long-term functionality and effectiveness of the taxonomy rely on regular reviews and maintenance.

This means actively engaging in tasks such as adding and removing terms, grouping keywords, and more.

By diligently tending to the taxonomy and ensuring its accuracy and relevance, you can optimize its usability and keep it aligned with the evolving needs of the product and its users.

Taxonomies are crucial in navigating the information architecture of a company's knowledge base. They establish hidden connections between content elements, and when organized and maintained effectively, they significantly improve search results and refinements.

By properly maintaining the taxonomy, your team can locate the desired content much faster than navigation-based search methods. However, the effectiveness of a taxonomy extends beyond accelerated information retrieval.

It leads to increased content reuse by technical writers and streamlines the overall workflow.

A well-maintained taxonomy empowers your team to maximize productivity and efficiency by leveraging existing content resources.

It enhances collaboration, promotes consistency, and ultimately contributes to the success of your documentation and knowledge management processes.

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