Although a collection taxonomy sounds complex—and often is, for sure—it really boils down to categorizing items (usually retail products, for our purposes) in a straightforward, intuitive way that allows users to easily find what they’re looking for even if they don’t necessarily know what it’s called.
Recently NY Times food editor Sam Sifton did with sandwiches what we often do with home goods, electronics, and other items; he created a collection taxonomy of sorts for 'em. It’s a simple taxonomy in which the sandwiches are sorted according to the type of bread/roll that’s traditionally associated with different meats, cheeses, and other fillings. Sifton takes it a step further by including helpful descriptions of each at both the category (i.e., bread/roll) and product (i.e., sandwich) level.
Category descriptions like this are also useful when assigning products to different levels on a site; a brief paragraph or two about what can be found in any given category offers context for what the user is viewing (or about to view), and helps them learn more, including what’s special, about what’s on offer.
Take the “Sliced Bread” category, for instance: we learn from the brief description that Sifton’s not just talking about “…the packaged stuff, but rather any sandwich built on bread sliced from a larger loaf.”
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