Combining multiple taxonomies can be a contentious issue: each taxonomy belongs to a team who has put a lot of thought into their taxonomy and may not easily let go of certain terms or features. However, sometimes taxonomies do need to be combined, and here are some tips on how to go through the process.

Know Your Taxonomies

When you combine taxonomies, you’ll need to know which ones need to be consolidated. Seems kind of obvious, right? It’s important to know which ones are included, who created them, which subject matter experts collaborated on the taxonomy, and if these people are still around. If the taxonomist or subject matter experts are no longer available, who is now responsible or accountable for the taxonomy?

Know the Problems with Your Taxonomies

The easiest approach to combining taxonomies together might be to just look at the terms and see which ones are the same or different, and merge the taxonomies together. Less obvious is that there can be problems with the taxonomies. Instead of diving in to redesign, it’s important to take the opportunity research the problems using the normal research methods. Then you can find out what works and doesn’t work and create a plan for your consolidation. Read about some best practices for building a taxonomy.

Evaluate and Revise the Taxonomy

With your plan in hand, you can start to evaluate the taxonomies needing to be combined. Subject matter experts and taxonomy users will be best suited to tell you the meanings of the terms in the taxonomy. Investigations can include: two terms look the same (or similar); different hierarchical structures and different facets, why these were selected, and how they can be adjusted; the use of synonyms and if synonyms apply given the different possible meanings of the terms; the scope of the content needing to be tagged.

Once evaluated, you’ll get into revising the taxonomy. When revising, we need to think about how subject matter experts and taxonomy users review the new taxonomy and give comments. If there are disagreements on terms, how will these be resolved?


Once the taxonomies have been combined, it’s important to answer how these changes will be implemented and how the re-application of the new taxonomy will be accomplished. Who will spearhead the work? What technology will be used to support re-tagging? How will any interface be impacted and what is the process for updating and testing the design? Are others, such as programmers or QA, needed to help implement and verify changes?

Learn More

Taxonomy Merging or Mapping


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