Taxonomy is a hierarchical structure for the classification and/or organization of data. In content management and information architecture, taxonomy is used as a tool for organizing content. Development of an enterprise taxonomy requires the careful coordination and cooperation of departments within your organization.
Once the taxonomy is created, it needs to be managed. There is no such thing as "finished taxonomy". Taxonomy needs to be revisited and revised periodically. Why? Business changes, new content is created, old content is archived.
The two key aspects of taxonomy are taxonomy structure and taxonomy view. Taxonomy structure provides a classification schema for categorizing content within the content management process. Taxonomy view is a conceptual model illustrating the types of information, ideas, and requirements to be presented on the Web. It represents the logical grouping of content visible to a site visitor and serves as input for Web site design and search engineering. Together, these concepts can guide your Web development efforts to maximize return on investment. Build it right, and they will come.
There are the three key factors of taxonomy development: business context, users, and content.
These factors reflect the fundamental business requirements for most taxonomy projects. Strategically, they provide a "trinity compass" for the road of taxonomy development.
Here's a description of each factor:
"Business context" is the business environment for the taxonomy efforts in terms of business objectives, Web applications where taxonomy will be used, corporate culture, past or current taxonomy initiatives, and artifacts within the organisation and across the industry.
"Users" refers to the target audience for the taxonomy, user profiles, and user characteristics in terms of information usage patterns.
"Content" is the type of information that will be covered by the taxonomy or that the taxonomy will be built upon.
There are two common techniques for taxonomy strategy.
A single taxonomy is used to store and deliver content. When content contributors utilize the content management system, they add, remove, and manage content in a structure that closely resembles the navigation and hierarchy of the delivery framework (your website or application). The navigation structure is the taxonomy.
This method is conceptually simple and makes it quite easy to dynamically build your navigation from knowledge of this hierarchy. However, this model does have drawbacks:
Every time you reorganize the website, the organization of content in your management application shifts. Admittedly, this isn’t much of a drawback if you’re managing content for one moderately sized site or if your team of contributors is small.
It is difficult to reuse content in this structure. If you hope to reuse assets throughout your website, where are they organized in this structure?
In an environment with many contributors and diverse security requirements, organizing content (in the management application) in another way, say by contributor or by department, may be more intuitive.
A more robust, albeit more complex, method of managing content is to maintain structures and metadata in the content management application that is independent of the delivery system’s organization (navigation).
Content is organized, at the source, as may be required by your security, workflow, or organizational needs. Perhaps your data lives in a content management system or database where different organizational mechanisms exist. Unfortunately, the navigation for your consuming application (the presentation framework) is often managed by some other means.
By some rule or algorithm, leveraging your content classification data, material gets “mapped” to the presentation framework.
Advantages of this model:
There may be more than one way to organize content (think: content reuse). Given the same set of content, same set of classification criteria, but multiple algorithms, we can now build a delivery framework that allows for many methods of organization.
You no longer need to reorganize your content management application to change the delivery application. Just the algorithms (mappings) change.
If you hope to build your navigation dynamically, often you’ll need to build a tool or alternate hierarchy. You may not find much value in the content’s taxonomy.
Content, in your management environment, may be orphaned in your presentation framework if there are no rules mapping to an accessible part of the site.
Parts of the site may only be sparsely populated. It may not be readily obvious that you are creating gaps (with little or no content) in your site.
While powerful, this technique can be difficult to administer without having a fairly comprehensive understanding of the site design and algorithms for "mapping".
Assuming there are hierarchical structures within your content classification system, there is a very good chance that valuable information exists in the hierarchy. By taking advantage of relationships within your hierarchical metadata structures, richer algorithms may be developed for your content delivery framework.