April 14, 2021

How to Create a Taxonomy from Scratch with Findability in Mind

image shows person writing technical document

Working in a team of technical writers has challenges that, for the most part, revolve around creating an organization system for your content that works for everyone.

Some of the best features of using a CCMS (component content management system) like Paligo are the built-in tools that help organize your content, such as folders and taxonomy labels. In this post we will look at how you can create taxonomy labels to improve findability.

What is a taxonomy label?

Taxonomy labels are a way of categorizing your content outside of the standard folder structure. As we discussed briefly in a previous post (“Learning Structured Authoring”), taxonomy labels are an effective tool because topic organization has many potential solutions. This is particularly useful because anyone on your team can search for content by category.

Taxonomy labels can be used to find any content with a particular tag regardless of folder location. For example, perhaps your colleague organized specifications into different product folders, but they added the taxonomy label “Specifications” to each. You can still easily view all of the product specifications by searching for the taxonomy label “Specifications.” This means you do not need to search through folders to find what you need – the taxonomy labels organize that for you.

With effectively used taxonomy labels, the team can work more efficiently. Your fellow writers will be able to search for and find topics quickly and easily, despite different opinions about how the traditional folders should be structured. Taxonomy labels have other benefits as well, such as applying filters and setting class names for styling with CSS.

But to get to that level of convenience, you must first establish which taxonomy labels are most useful for your team.

How to Establish Effective Taxonomy Labels

The first step to developing an efficient and easily searchable taxonomy is to think about all the possible ways your content could be organized. Taxonomy labels are similar to index entries. You may have a primary term, but there are additional terms that others may look for instead. Ideally, your taxonomy labels will cater to the varying categories your teammates will look for. Creating taxonomy labels for how you think about your content is a start. But for a truly effective set of taxonomy labels, you should include your team in the process.

Ask your team members how they would organize your collective content. Everyone will have different perspectives and solutions to this question, and that is exactly what you need to know. The team should decide what the standard folder system will be for all of the content. The rest of the proposed organization solutions can initiate the taxonomy label effort.

Ideally, you will establish taxonomy labels based on the subject of the content. It may be helpful to think of synonyms for the subject of your content, too. Think past the documentation team itself – what other departments will be using the content? For example, let’s say the Sales department regularly needs PDFs of the tech specifications. Whilst the writing team may not need to tag content by specification, other people in the organization might. By preemptively assigning taxonomy labels that address other departments’ needs, you can make it even easier for the writing team to handle other departments’ requests.

By including your team and incorporating their feedback into your content organization, you can be confident that your content is easier to search and find. Colleagues will be able to find content efficiently – even if the folder structure does not match how they think about the content.

Using Effective Taxonomy Labels For Easier Findability

Once the taxonomy labels are decided upon by the team, you can create them. Just as there is a folder structure showing the directories different topics and other content is stored in, there is also a hierarchical system of taxonomy labels in Paligo.

Whenever a new piece of content is created, it can be very helpful to scan through the available taxonomy labels to ensure all the potential ways to search for this specific piece of content are utilized. It is good practice to regularly scan through the available taxonomy labels. While it is easy to think of how we might organize something, it may be difficult to remember how our teammates might organize the same information. This is especially true when each team member reuses the content in different publications that may have varying focuses.

The more familiar you are with your team’s taxonomy labels, the easier it is to apply them effectively. With familiarity, you will be far more prepared to tag different content with all the relevant taxonomy labels available. As a result, all of your colleagues will be able to quickly find the content they need.

This efficiency has the added benefit of increasing the likelihood of content being reused. Writers are far more likely to reuse content that is easy to find. Content that is difficult to search for or is otherwise inaccessible is in danger of being rewritten, and then more than a single topic will need to be maintained. This can lead to version control issues, additional translation costs, and the potential for inaccurate or outdated content.

Final Thoughts

One of the biggest benefits to using a CCMS like Paligo is the availability of organizational options. In addition to the traditional, 1-dimensional folder system, teams can utilize taxonomy labels to categorize any relevant content. There is no single solution to content organization, and taxonomy labels add an extra dimension of searchability and findability. They help everyone in your team find content quickly, despite differences in how they think about the content organization.