Planning a website taxonomy
19 Jan 2021

Websites and taxonomies

If a website has a lot of content and information, then it’s important to provide tools to help visitors navigate through the content to find what they are interested in. This is where website taxonomies come in

What is a website taxonomy?

Basically, a taxonomy is a classification system. For example, a list of topics relevant to the content on the website. Using a classification system like this allows for descriptive terms and labels to be used to define similarities and relationships between content.

The complexity of a taxonomy varies. Many websites only need a simple taxonomy, such as a short list of topics or locations. Others, such as a technical site, could contain a complex list of topics, split into numerous tiers.

There are several benefits of using taxonomies on websites.  They allow for large collections of content to be searched and organised more easily.

For example, on the Fire Brigades Union website we developed, the news, circulars, and publication collections can be filtered by subject, region, and campaign (the taxonomies). Visitors simply need to select from the drop-down lists to filter the collection.

They also allow for related content to be displayed. For example, on the unionlearn website we built, when viewing a news item, links to related content appear.

Taxonomies can also help with Search Engine Optimisation, making it easier for search engines to understand the content in a site.


Tips for creating a website taxonomy

  1. If you are creating a taxonomy for a website, one of the first steps it to define the primary purpose it needs to meet. For example, is it to help users find products they may want to buy?
  2. Research the keyword required for the taxonomy. Make sure the terminology used matches the needs and expectations of the audience. There are tools that can be used to measure usage of keywords on internet searches that can be useful for checking popularity.
  3. Decide how complex the taxonomy needs to be. A simple, flat taxonomy is easier to implement, but a hierarchical taxonomy can really help on larger websites.
  4. Consulting with stakeholders and testing the taxonomy will help ensure the right terms and complexity is in place as well.


Content management systems and taxonomies

Most websites are built using a Content Management System.

The most popular is WordPress. It’s great for simple websites but has limited support for taxonomies. Most people end up using the free text ‘Tags’ to add subjects to content on an ad hoc basis. This usually results in duplication and badly thought-out subject lists.

For large websites, a more powerful systems such as Drupal is much better. It offers much more advanced taxonomy facilities that help make large sites easier to navigate. 

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