Taxonomy is creating entities based on needs or interests of users by carefully selecting terms and organizing them in a tree-like structure with parent-child relationships.
The word Taxonomy was first introduced by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish Botanist, to organize and classify organisms in the 18th century. The field of Information Architecture adopted the term taxonomy to help organize information for users of a system.
Some of the challenges we face when we need to organize content are:
- Which items are being classified?
- What are the needs of the user?
- What terms are actually used by the users?
- What categories should be used?
- Which category should an item be included in?
A systematic process of research, design and testing helps to solve the challenges of creating a taxonomy. User research activities such as card sorting, interviews, user observations and competitive analysis can help uncover how users think about the terms being classified.
There are a few considerations to think about when you are in the designing the taxonomy.
- Will the hierarchy be wide by having many sibling relationships or will it be deep with many parent-child relationships?
- Will the hierarchy be logically ordered?
- Can an item appear in multiple categories?
- Will the parent category have enough items in there to justify it being a category?
There are various taxonomy validation techniques available. Delphi card sorting, remote card sorting, usability testing, and search analysis can be used to verify that the information is organized for the user.
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