Coordinated, Coexistent Architecture: Types, Taxonomy, and Turf

I’ve just finished a little project for a county government. The goal was to consolidate many distinct departmental websites into one site, on one platform (Drupal), while creating a new user-centered design to improve accessibility and still providing a departmental view of the content. I came into the project for implementation; others had already done the design, which provided a completely revamped, visitor-friendly navigation, and that design had been approved by the client stakeholders. My role was to help figure out how to build it, since I’ve had some experience with Drupal.

The situation, of course, will be PAINFULLY familiar to many…

Content owners think in “departments”

Each department has its own services and programs, and it has its own perspective on how things should be organized. As the reality of this new user-centered design sank in, the content owners started to ask, “Where’s OUR department site? Where are all OUR services and programs?”

I think that many redesign projects fail when in a well-intentioned response to these questions, the champion for user-centered design says, “We don’t have ‘departments’ anymore…” In one phrase, the whole implementation is plunged into jeopardy.

Beyond that, there is a design principle that says a piece of content should have only “one location” in the site architecture, and thus are drawn the rigid lines for the irreconcilable conflict: Either you have a user-centered design or an organization-centered design.

I think that’s a false dichotomy. We are no longer limited by having to put content files into directories on a web server. Fortunately, this was Drupal, which for all its perils as a “flexible” platform (i.e. “mind-bogglingly complex”), it can accommodate many simultaneous approaches to most challenges. We really can provide a solution to please everyone.

NB: It should go without saying that there will be as many solutions to this puzzle as there are drupalistas, but here is the solution I proposed and delivered.

Goals for the solution

I think it’s important to lay out my goals for making this multi-architecture work for all the users:

  • Make URL paths, breadcrumbs, and menu navigation absolutely consistent. It seems a simple thing on the surface, but it is not so easy to do.
  • Provide complete visitor and departmental views of the content, without disrupting the user experience for either visitor or content authors. In other words, I wanted for content authors to be able to put content exactly where they thought it should go, yet have it show up (also) where visitors expected to find it. I reasoned that if visitors knew the departmental structures, they would go there first.
  • Minimize “development” by relying on Panels and Views to provide dynamic templates. If you know Drupal, you probably know that the Views and Panels modules, both by @merlinofchaos, provide an alternative to the “one site, one template” native approach in Drupal.

Here’s a chart that illustrates the parallel architectures. The green navigation illustrates the visitor-centric navigation, while the cyan navigation shows the “department” door into the organizational view of the content.


Visitor paths based on taxonomy

Drupal has a robust taxonomy engine, which has been augmented by many community-contributed modules to extend taxonomy to other aspects of site structure, including menus, paths, and breadcrumbs. I chose to implement the user-centric paths into the content by vocabularies in the taxonomy—one vocabulary for each path.

At each step in the path is a Panels page that can be configured to show the most popular and newest content “bubbled up” from deeper in the vocabulary, as well as a view of the terms that make up the rest of the path. At any point, the visitor can step off the path to see the content directly, or go deeper.

Organization paths based on content types

I also took advantage of the powerful Drupal content typing engine to provide a completely parallel set of relationships, beginning with the “Department” type, then adding other content types, which then could “belong” to the department:

As one follows the organizational path, just as with the taxonomy-based paths, Panels pages pull content dynamically to create a complete departmental subsite that will be clearly recognizable to the departmental staff—and any visitors who know that they need something from this content.

References make it work

Whenever a piece of content is created, in addition to its substance, the author associates it with a Department through the entity reference, then tags it with the terms of the visitor-centric vocabularies, so that it can appear anywhere it needs to. In addition, however, there is an additional, structured “topic” tag vocabulary that will ensure that the site search can pull appropriate results, regardless of its departmental or visitor path tags.


When entering content, the author chooses where in the paths it should appear, so that it can appear in more than one place.

In conclusion, Drupal’s flexibility makes it possible to please everyone. The visitors get a site designed to address their particular interests and tasks, while the organization gets the administrative arrangement that it recognizes. Although it’s a fairly straightforward approach to describe, the implementation was actually very tricky, but that is the nature of Drupal. It is really a developer’s tool, built by developers for other developers. That is to take nothing away from Drupal’s power as a platform, but it is a fact that non-developer site builders have to face.

Content Declension: Adaptive content for the Hierarchy of Information Needs

Last week, I wrote a piece called, “A Hierarchy of Information Needs.” It described one way to think about how an information seeker’s question, problem, or interest at any moment can, in effect, blind him or her to other content, no matter how it’s formatted, nor how much the content’s creator wants it to be seen. Usually, the need for the “ephemera” of life becomes the dire matter to be resolved first.

That got me thinking about how else one might use the idea of a hierarchy, which led me to this pondering:

Consider how often a content owner would like for your content to be the most important thing in front of an information seeker at a moment. Let’s say, further, that the content is a full, well-created, powerful “story,” which will bring lasting value to the information seeker, if only you could get it to shift down the hierarchy, from “story” to “reference,” to “ephemera.” If only your content could be fleeting, you reason, and if it could wink out of existence as soon as it’s served its purpose, then it would be seen, explored, and valued in all its fullness and glory.

Content “Declension,” or manifesting your content at each level of the “Hierarchy of Information Needs”

I’m going to call this process—of setting off a content cascade through the hierarchy—“Content Declension,” which I will further call just one process of “Content Grammar.”

In many languages (other than English), nouns “decline” to suit the context in which they’re used. They take different prefixes and suffixes, and sometimes they take on entirely different forms, in order to communicate their role in a sentence, roles that are called “cases.” As a basic example of how this process works, you’ll recognize the vestiges of this process in English:

He is the subject, and the subject is about him, and his story is fascinating. 
(Nominative case he declines to dative case him, and then to genitive case his…)

OK, it’s a thin example, but Content Declension is the process of establishing patterns and formats for the different cases (or “contexts”) in which your content appears.

When you are creating content, it is vital to consider how it will be able to satisfy your information seekers’ most immediate needs, while providing paths deeper into the whole content. In one sense this is about creating useful, meaningful abstracts of your content, but it’s also about establishing consistent formats for each level, so that no matter what the underlying content, it will be clear how it all fits together, and where you are at each level of the content’s inherent “hierarchy.”

Let me use a blog post as an obvious example. This is easy-peasy on a printed page, since the article appears in a fixed position and format. In digital publication, however, the content declensions are complex.

full_storyWhen we think of the full article, standing alone on an HTML page, the answer is easy: We have the full “Story” form, with all its parts, in all their glory: All the text, the byline, the images and videos, as well as the comments, contact links for the author, and perhaps legal information, too.

At the side, however, is another box, called “Related Stories,” which is a “Reference” content component. With a glance, you can see other content you may want to read, but you don’t have to go there if you don’t want to. Inside that container are the stories’ “Ephemera” declensions. They probably include the headline, a thumbnail, a lead-in blurb, and maybe the byline. It just depends on how the designers chose the elements.

So all together, in this example, we have to plan three declensions of the same content: The full Story, the Reference, and the Ephemera— the same content, in three case forms.

It is vital to consider all the contexts in which your content will appear to the information seeker: In sidebar lists, in search results, in printed documents, in content links, and even in URLs. The more you can plan for the contexts in which your content appears, the better you can present it in a form (and format) that will suit the seeker’s present need.

Why is this important? It’s another step in making your content “adaptive” in preparation for “responsive design.”

But there are contexts, and there are contexts.

recent_postsFor the content of our time, there are infinite possibilities for what content is going to show up where, on what platform, in what physical context, and on and on, as we as content strategists are painfully aware. We have also been introduced recently to “responsive design” as a method of resolving some of that uncertainty and “adaptive content” as a way to teach the content about itself, so it can communicate its topics and other meta-properties to the design, so that it can shift.

But I would say that there is an additional property that we have not yet systematized, which is “content context.”

  • What happens when this content is called as a “link?” What do you, the content designer, want to present as the properties in the link?
  • What if the “link” is in a “related links” container? Should it be the same “link” as when it appears in the “Search Results” list? How can the metadata communicate which content ephemera should appear when it appears in one context or another?
  • How can we ensure that when this story is called from a blog post, it declines in one way, and when it’s called from a Twitter feed, it declines differently?
  • What if you want to provide hooks for other contexts, so that related content is served up in some contexts, but not others, when someone else is specifying the display?



A Call for the Next Evolution of Standards: Content Grammar

Content declension, as a standard, would need to address two issues. First, it would require that content experience designers imaging the functions and contexts in which a full version of content might appear, so that a responsive design could address differences in display for different contexts.

But it would also require that we establish a standard system to name these contexts, like any other evolution of markup. We would need to say that a link.related-links would be different from a, to be followed by the fields, attributes, or properties that should appear in those cases. Something like that.

As Content Strategy is evolving, we are uncovering new questions and puzzles related to the “substance” of the digital universe, and I think this is an important next phase, like the “semantic web,” we might call it the “grammatical web.” I expect that if we sit here some more and think at it long enough, we’ll come up with more “Content Inflections,” like “Conjugations.”

Let me know what you think.


The Trouble with Semantic Markup: Response to

First thing this morning, checking in on the Twitter streams, I saw Jeff Evans (@joffaboy) announce the article, “Google, Bing & Yahoo’s New Creates New Standards for Web Content Markup.”

Initial tweet

My heart began pounding as soon as I read the title. The arch-rivals of search, the biggest dogs in the yard, the great institutions of the web were collaborating to propose a solution to the problem of markup that has plagued me from the beginning: Markup doesn’t really address the substance of the web, just its most basic structure. My hopes were further raised by the mention of a “recipe” content type, which if you follow my writings, you’ll recognize as a regular example.

I retweeted in a flash: This is what I’ve been looking for!

My first retweet

Then, I visited, and all my hopes came crashing to Earth again. The Search Giant monsters have created a new monster.

My second retweet

Quick Overview

As I understand it, is proposing additions to HTML that the “Big Three” search engines are going to interpret, in order to improve the accuracy of search results. By augmenting the markup in web content, they are together settling on a standard vocabulary, so that they will all be recognizing the same language. Presumably, once they’ve built this standard language into their sorting algorithms, any content that has these augmentations will rise to the top of search results, above content that doesn’t.

In principle, that sounds good, doesn’t it?

I’d like to offer some reflections on a few practical implications of this effort.

Corporations try to head off the “free” Semantic Web

For-profit companies have been watching in dismay for twenty years the rise of the “free” WorldWide Web. Content is free. Software is free. Social Networking is free. And more and more of the web is being driven by “free” efforts, like the WorldWideWeb Consortium. Volunteerism is a huge threat to capitalism, and they know it.

Among the greatest of these free efforts is the quest for the Semantic Web, which in its simplest terms, seeks a set of standards for describing the meaning of content. Human language is always problematic—as are those who use it—because words are never just words. The meaning of words is rich, contextual, ambiguous, and worst of all, ever changing. There are a lot of really, really smart people, all over the world, almost exclusively volunteer (with some corporate support), working hard to figure this out. If you want to get a sense of the complexity of it all, talk to Rachel Lovinger (@rlovinger) at Razorfish. She’s one of the true semantic geeks, and I’ll just have to take her word on most of what she says. She’s fab.

But instead of supporting this “free” effort, the Search Giants have imposed a de facto standard for the Semantic Web, and they’re pushing it with the strength of their size and popularity. Like the Zen question of the tree in the forest:

If a search engine doesn’t support your semantic standard, will anyone find your content?

I am suspicious of their motives. I read it as an effort to bypass all the work that’s already gone into the Semantic Web.

Markup is more than basic structure and presentation

It has been a great struggle since the beginning of the web to strike the appropriate balance between the structure of content and its presentation. In other words, what content is should be distinct from how content looks. But HTML—even up to HTML5—still only addresses the most basic aspects of content, and even now, offers only tags that address the pieces of the “webpage”—like the “header” and “navigation.” There isn’t markup to describe the content’s substance.

CSS as semantic markers

Cascading Stylesheets, in a roundabout way is one approach to the problem, although it’s originally meant to control the presentation of the content. Let me give an example.

Lists are a primary content structure. We create lists for everything—ingredients, footnotes, archives, contacts, links, Q&A, references, etcetera ad nauseum—but HTML offers us only two choices: “Ordered lists” (numbered) and “Unordered lists” (bulleted).

If your website had a list of links in a sidebar and a list of staff names on a contact page, you use the same basic markup:

    <li><a href= “” title= “This is the first list item”>Link Text 1</a></li>
    <li><a href= “” title= “This is the second list item”>Link Text 2</a></li>

…and then…

    <li>Contact Name 1</li>
    <li>Contact Name 2</li>

Here’s the problem: The web browser has a default way of rendering these lists, and they will look exactly the same, except that the links will be underlined. If you want to distinguish them from each other, you can add CSS classes, which give you a way to style them differently.

Now, CSS gurus (the best of whom are really content strategists underneath it all) will tell you that you should NEVER use class names that describe how something looks, like “class= ‘blue_text’.” The class names should describe what they are, which is, in fact, a semantic indication:

<ul class="links”>


<ul class=“contacts”>

Using these identifiers, the designer can define precisely how each component of a website should look. In a better world, however, they could also be used to identify what they are. Defining standard CSS classes and identifiers as part of XHTML would be one approach to encoding the meaning into markup.

But not Google, Bing, and Yahoo—Noooooooo.

The Search Giants, though, instead of building on CSS or any other existing approach, have introduced another “standard,” which superimposes another layer of markup on top of the feeble XHTML we already have. Here is the example from

    <span>Director: James Cameron (born August 16, 1954)</span>
    <span>Science fiction</span>
    <a href="../movies/avatar-theatrical-trailer.html">Trailer</a>

Before I go any further, I have to say that this code doesn’t look like any real XHTML I’ve ever seen, and that’s a worry right from the start. Nevertheless…

Once they’ve applied their markup augmentations, again right from, it becomes:

<div itemscope itemtype="">
    <h1 itemprop="name">Avatar</h1>
    <div itemprop="director" itemscope itemtype="">
    Director: <span itemprop="name">James Cameron</span> (born <span itemprop="birthDate">August 16, 1954)</span>

    <span itemprop="genre">Science fiction</span>
    <a href="../movies/avatar-theatrical-trailer.html" itemprop="trailer">Trailer</a>

There are many, many, many things wrong with this picture.

All the complexity of XML without any of its simplicity

XML is the mother of all markup. In fact, XHTML is just one markup language based on the XML standard. Using XML as the basis of your web code is an elegant—but very complex—solution to defining your content. When it’s all worked out, however, it lets you replace that gobbledygook above with something more like this:

        <name>James Cameron</name>
        <birthdate> August 16, 1954</birthdate>
    <genre>Science fiction</genre>
    <trailer url= “../movies/avatar-theatrical-trailer.html” />

Putting it simply, by augmenting XHTML with another layer of markup, the Search Giants have complicated the code immensely, making it just as complex as if they had done it in XML, but without any of the benefits of XML’s simple elegance.

Content is rarely this simple

The examples above deceive us, in any case: Yes, we can add fields to CMS templates for isolated metadata like “title” and “director,” but what about the main content itself? What about the meaning embedded in the article? Let’s say we’re writing an article about motion picture history, and we include the following sentence:

<p>James Cameron, best known for directing the sci-fi thriller,
“Avatar,” was born on August 16, 1954.</p>

All of the information in the example is present in that sentence, and if we were searching for content about James Cameron, we would have to rely on full-text searching.

If we were to use the augmentation, in order to make it all accessible to the search engines, it would get very messy, something like:

    <span itemscope itemtype ="">
        <span itemprop="director" itemscope itemtype="">
        James Cameron
best known for directing the
    <span itemscope itemtype ="">
        <span itemprop="genre">sci-fi thriller</span>,
        <span itemprop="name”>Avatar</span>
,” was born on
    <span itemscope itemtype ="">
        <span itemprop="director" itemscope itemtype="">
        <span itemprop="birthDate">August 16, 1954</span>

Not for mere mortal content authors

Now we come to the main practicality of content: Content authors.

I have marked up a lot of content in my career, and I am an obsessive, precise, exacting author. On the other hand, I’ve implemented CMS templates and tried to configure the best WYSIWYG editors to be able to apply the right CSS classes within content. And I’ve worked with a lot of content owners to teach them the importance of good markup.

Here’s the hard reality: No matter how powerful the technology, no matter how carefully designed and coded the CMS templates, no matter how sophisticated the WYSIWYG editor, and no matter how much training we offer, any markup will ultimately succeed or fail on the content authors’ ability to use it.

And that brings me to my main issue with the Semantic Web.

The Semantic Web cannot rely on encoding alone

If the main difficulty of searching the web is in understanding the meaning of the content (given all the languages, people, markup skill, and so many more factors), then we can really only solve it the hard way: Intelligent reading. We cannot rely on the human beings who create content to make it speak for itself, by making sure that everything is tagged correctly. They just can’t do it.

We cannot rely on markup because XHTML is insufficient, XML is too complicated for more than data structures, and the effort is unrealistic. In the end, each method may play a limited role in addressing the findability of content, but ultimately, it will require some other kind of intelligence—intelligence in the interpreting of meaning, rather than its encoding.

I don’t know what will happen with the markup augmentations. Personally, I hope that it just sags under its own weight and disappears into the marshes from whence it came. And I heartily encourage all the folks who are working on this problem to keep at it: There’s no path to success here but the long one. Eventually, perhaps new kinds of computers will be able to understand us weird, wonderful human beings, but for now, we remain inscrutable to the mechanical, algorithmic mind.

Taxonomy: A “Disambiguation”

I was not able to attend the several workshops on “taxonomy” at the recent WebContent2010 conference (#wcconf) in Chicago: Tough choices were made. Yet I think I got a lot out of those workshops because of the seriously faithful tweeting coming out of them, and when I said so to some new friends, they almost all said, “How? I didn’t understand any of it…overwhelming.” I replied that when you follow a tweetstream, you only see what people understand, already interpreted for you. (Which is a recommendation, really, to follow conferences you can’t attend: Done well, the tweets will give you at least the essential points.)

Amid the summary tweets of the workshops’ content, however, I saw comments such as these:

“A workshop and a session on taxonomy and I’m still confused. Is it just me? #wcconf” – @EvanKittleton

“Ouch. My head hurts. Taxonomy not an easy beast to wrestle. #wcconf” –  @cc_holland

A lot of the confusion centered on how the idea of taxonomy relates to—and differs from—other elements of Information Architecture, such as sitemaps and navigation. Are they the same thing? Is it just your metadata?

With the guidance of my best-bud colleague Becky Bristol as technical reviewer (@paintingblue) I’m going to try to “disambiguate” it, that is, to explain and clarify.

Disclaimer: I’m an explainer, not a taxonomist, so if you’d like to help with the definition, please by all means chime in.

The Roots of Taxonomy

“Taxonomy” is an ancient scientific practice. It means to find names for things. In naming things, you try to figure out how sets of things are related to one another, so that each, unique item will not only have a unique name, but also a reference to the others to which it relates.

Taxonomy creates a hierarchy of inheritance, from general down to specific and back: A giant tree, on which there is a unique place for every item, like the leaves at the ends of twigs at the ends of branches connected to a trunk and running deep into the earth.

In order to build a taxonomy in the scientific sense, you have to create a framework that tells you how to name a thing. This is the “schema.” The most famous schema was created by Carl Linnaeus, an 18th Century Swedish botanist, to categorize and name life on Earth. It has eight, major taxonomic ranks:

Domain -> Kingdom -> Phylum (botany)/Division (zoology) -> Class -> Order -> Family -> Genus -> Species

If you’re REALLY geeky, you can lay it out in Latin:

Regio -> Regnum -> Phylum/Divisio -> Classis -> Ordo -> Familia -> Genus -> Species

There are only certain terms you can put into those fields. Imagine drop-down boxes from which you MUST choose. Let’s try it on ourselves, humans:

Domain Kingdom Division Class Order Family Genus Species
Eukarya Animalia Chordata Mammalia Primates Hominidae Homo H. Sapiens

When the terms don’t apply at a certain point, then you get to pick a new term, which at that point, creates a new branch. If you find a new item in nature, something that hasn’t been named before, you get to name it yourself, but you will use the same set of terms down the tree as far as you can to demonstrate your new species’s relationship to all other life.

Taken altogether, this classification system becomes the official way of understanding the whole world of animals, plants, and bacteria. Taxonomy is powerful because it is universally adopted: You could try to work out a new system, but then you’d have to explain it to everyone and get buy-in for it to mean anything to anyone else but you. It is at this point that we make the transition to the Web…

Taxonomy on the Web

Now at some point, the word “taxonomy” was appropriated by information architects to talk about web content. When one discipline borrows from another’s, the meaning and use of the term can change significantly, and so “taxonomy” doesn’t mean to the web professional quite what it means to the biologist.

A website’s taxonomy describes how all the content relates to each other. Through its rigidly controlled network of meaning, there is a way to say with confidence:

“Item X and Item Y are in the same group. When you look at Item X, you may also be interested in Item Y.”

We take this kind of connection for granted these days because Amazon and other e-commerce giants have made such ubiquitous and successful use of taxonomy to sell related things, but it’s really quite difficult to establish those kinds of relationships in your content without taxonomy.

In summary to this point, then, “taxonomy” on a website is a classification system that maps all your content to other content. Taxonomy on a website creates a scaffold that holds your content together.

Not one taxonomy, but many

It gets a little more complicated from here. Whereas in a biological taxonomy, we’re dealing with only one dimension of relationship, the ultimate relationship of one species to another through its name, on a website, there can be many classification systems to govern the relationship of content along many dimensions.

Let’s take with a clothing retailer. The most basic taxonomy would divide the products into groups of “kind” to answer the question, “What article of clothing is this?”

Clothing for the upper body

  • Shirts
    • Blouses
    • T-shirts
    • Polos
    • Turtlenecks
  • Jackets
    • Blazer
    • Windbreaker
  • Sweaters
    • Cardigan
    • Pull-over
    • Vest

Clothing for the legs

  • Pants
    • Dress pants
    • Jeans
    • Shorts
  • Skirts
    • Full-length
    • Wraps
    • Culottes (really a hybrid)


  • Jewelry
    • Rings
    • Earrings
    • Watches
    • Necklaces
  • Belts
  • Hats
  • Bags

So far, so good. We have a system for identifying items by basic type. But that’s not so good for sales.

There will be, then, additional taxonomies to build up a multidimensional system that organizes products into classes: For women or men, girls or boys; for casual, work or formal contexts; for outdoor or indoor; by color; by season; by ethnic origin; and so on, and so on…

But that’s just the products. There will be other content that accompanies these products, and all that content must also be organized into categories.

  • “How to” content might include tieing neckties, caring for leather, assembling an ensemble for an evening out in Paris.
  • “About us” content might go through all the ways that this company works for environmental activism.
  • Product information might include stories about where the materials came from, or who made them.

The taxonomy must account for all these dimensions of content description and classification, so that when you pull up the product page for that pair of shoes you’re considering, you also can see:

  • What other colors are available?
  • What other shoes are in its class?
  • How do you care for them?
  • What accessories would complete your outfit?
  • How have other customers worn this item? (From their photos)
  • How long it would take to get them if you clicked the button right now…?

Taxonomy implemented through metadata

All this work of understanding the interrelationship of content has a specific and practical end: Metadata.

It is beyond the scope of this article to explain the process of developing taxonomic systems and how they are then translated into metdata for your web content. It is crucial, however, to recognize that having a clear, controlled system of metadata, which is then meticulously and consistently connected to your content, is the only way to ensure that your search and coordinated applications serve up the content the user expects, in the language the user expects, in combinations that make sense to the user.

Rich, interactive experiences require taxonomy

Creating rich internet applications (RIAs) is partly about the technology to evaluate and serve up all these connections, but it is impossible without care, design, and maintenance of your content’s taxonomy.

Again, unlike our scientific counterparts, there can be no, single, universal taxonomy for web content because each content domain has its own context of purpose, vocabulary, and peculiarity.  There are commercially available taxonomic systems to get you started, but they all have to be evaluated for your specific purpose, and there will always be adaptation of the metadata.

Taxonomy, Navigation, and Sitemaps

A lot of the confusion in the workshops dealt with how a website’s taxonomy relates to the other aspects of its information architecture. As we explore these concepts, keep in mind that when done well, the taxonomy is completely invisible to the user. It just makes everything run smoothly.


The sitemap reveals the website’s overall organization. Every bit of content on a website needs a primary “home.” Ultimately, when you reach a content item, you are (virtually, of course) in a particular location on the site. The information architect’s job is to choose from the infinite range of organizational possibilities to anchor the user experience, which then is the foundation for the richness that the taxonomy creates.

The sitemap probably will reflect some basic aspects of the taxonomy underlying the content, but when you consider the richness and complexity described above, any relation between the sitemap and the taxonomy will be loose.


Navigation is more closely related to the sitemap than to the taxonomy. The main navigation provides the user an organized path around the website, intended for browsing. Like the sitemap, it may reflect some aspects of the taxonomy, but it doesn’t have to.

The taxonomy will enable, however, the local navigation options through access points to content elsewhere on the site, reached through the relatedness of content.

IAs help you put it together!

It’s the job of information architects to work all these intricacies out. The skills for designing the taxonomy and associated metadata are extensive and precise. The content strategist helps to define the content domain and the language that will best represent it, but the IA will be able to build an organizational framework that links the content domain with the technical wizardry that serves up the user experience.

In conclusion, as my best-bud Becky says, “There is no right or wrong way of [creating taxonomy]. The trick is to come up with a taxonomy that works for your users.”

I hope that this article has helped to clarify the definition of taxonomy and its application. Please offer corrections, amplifications, and clarification. It’s a matter to wide importance, and we need to get it right!

Content Typology: Getting a Handle on Your Content Types

Content types” are among the least understood, and yet most potent, aspects of user experience and web design. Most people encounter them for the first time when implementing a grand-scale content management system (CMS) because you have to define content types before building templates for each kind of content you’re going to publish. (Everything I know about content types began with Bob Boiko’s Content Management Bible, and I recommend it to anyone facing a new CMS.)

Because they associate content types so closely with CMS, some make the mistake of equating content strategy with content management. They’re not the same thing, though they are certainly related. Your content strategy specifies the content types that will then be modeled for your CMS.

I want to take some time, then, to tell you what I understand about content typology, so that you’ll be able to address content types in your strategy.

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