When you hear the word taxonomy, you may be thinking about grouping, defining, and naming animals and plants based on their shared characteristics. This may not be the case if you are responsible for creating or managing content on a website. You have already been faced with the challenge of choosing terms that label or describe your product or service.

The activity of agreeing on what those words mean – ontology – and choosing which ones to use – controlled vocabulary – are the first steps of creating a taxonomy. In a digital context, a taxonomy is the arrangement of these terms in a way that makes sense to the users of your website, so they can easily search your content and find what they’re looking for.

When it comes to searching for content, few things are more important than context. If you have multiple ways of referring to a product or service depending on the page or section or intended audience, you may be confusing your audiences.

One thing to consider when building a taxonomy and establishing an ontology is to think about some confusing or interchangeable terms on your site. Why do you use the terms you use? Why do you avoid other terms? Do you always use the terms consistently, even off the website?

Developing a taxonomy or classification system organized into conceptually similar categories can help users gain a better understanding of the taxonomy subject area. There is an art and science to organizing terms and terminology. Granted, taxonomies need technology to become active and provide value, but up to now taxonomies haven’t been the sexiest value-add to an information management system product feature list. Information management systems are still trying to catch up to taxonomies.

It has never been more important to remember the value of a solid taxonomy and its role in the search process. How the content is classified impacts the findability of your data. Professionals should look for an experienced builder of solid standards-based taxonomies to associate content for appropriate machine-assisted indexing. Access Innovations can provide solutions that are ANSI compliant.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in thesaurus, ontology, and taxonomy creation and metadata application.