Website Taxonomy Vol. II: How To Craft A Taxonomy That Works

Sep 28, 2017 9:33:42 AM

by Sean Messier

In our first taxonomy blog, we discussed the basic ideas behind website taxonomy. Here’s a quick refresher: 

  • Taxonomies help organize items into categories
  • Each category name in a taxonomy describes what the category contains
  • There are flat, hierarchical, network and facet taxonomies
  • A well-constructed taxonomy is essential to any well-designed website 

Needless to say, these points only skim the surface of the topic. A great deal of planning goes into the creation of any taxonomy, and a wide range of factors must be considered to make certain that your website taxonomy is truly comprehensive. Here, we’ll give you a few tips on pulling together a taxonomy that will get the job done. 

  1. Create clear category names. 

It’s obvious that you want your website to be easy to navigate. Accordingly, it’s important to keep category names simple, yet precise. Best Buy’s website serves as an excellent example. After clicking on the Product category, which is the first tab on the site’s homepage, you’ll be presented with another considerably more extensive list of categories. Each of these categories is named so that while you may not know exactly what the category entails in detail, you get the basic idea of what you’ll find – these categories boast names as simple as “Appliances,” as well as more niche descriptions, like “Drones, Toys & Collectibles.” 

  1. Use category descriptions. 

You know that the names of each category in a website taxonomy serve as indicators of what the category contains. But it’s important to bear in mind that a few words might not cut it for everyone who's browsing your website. Users might have different ideas of what these words mean, or they might be unfamiliar with the words altogether. Fortunately, this problem can easily be addressed by applying category descriptions to each category of your taxonomy. Take this New York Times article – in which the author, Sam Sifton, created a taxonomy describing American sandwiches – as a prime example. Aside from stating the names of each category, Sifton included an evocative, yet clear, description of what exists within the category. This sort of description can work wonders on the user’s end of things by offering further clarification. 

  1. Use the right type of taxonomy.

Since there are several types of taxonomies, it’s of the utmost importance that you choose the style that best caters to your website’s content. Many factors might come into play. Are you a retailer with a relatively niche, straightforward assortment of items? A network taxonomy would likely be an excellent choice. If, on the other hand, your products are vast and varied, a facet taxonomy is probably the way to go. 

  1. Don’t make it too complex. 

The amount of categories your taxonomy comprises will undoubtedly vary depending on the nature of your website. Regardless, offering too wide a selection of categories from the get-go might just make things too confusing. If your website does require a vast range of categories, be sure to start as simply as possible at the top of the hierarchy and only offer lengthy lists of subcategories as things get considerably more specific. Typically, you won’t want your list of categories to go too deep, either, as that would just mean more work on the user’s part. If they’re seeking something that specific, they can probably get what they need from your website’s search function. 

Get In Touch

If you’re planning on creating a taxonomy for your website, bear in mind that they’re costly in terms of both time and money – but if they’re made well, they’ll make a world of difference. Did we miss anything important? Do you have any taxonomy-related experiences to share? Let us know in a comment or contact us today, and be sure to find us on social media to keep up with our blog and company updates. 


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