While you recognize that your company needs a website taxonomy or intranet taxonomy, you may not be sure how to convince management to provide resources to create, implement, and maintain a taxonomy.
In the past, I’ve worked on website taxonomy projects where the client’s original intention didn’t include taxonomy. I, or the agency I’ve worked with, “sold” the client on this work. Here’s some tips on how to sell taxonomy to your organization.
Research Website Problems
In researching problems with a website, we can look at user experience problems and author experience problems. A user might complain that they can’t find anything, don’t know where to look in the navigation for something, search doesn’t work, and they get too many search results. An author might say that he doesn’t know what content other authors are working on, can’t find everything about a certain topic, has to manually update pages when new content is created.
Not surprisingly, many people don’t know how taxonomy and metadata can help on a website. I say “not surprisingly” because many times it’s not others’ job to know how taxonomy and metadata can help. They don’t necessarily need to know these terms, but do need to benefit from the effective implementation of taxonomy and metadata. When you research website problems, people can’t articulate that the lack of taxonomy and metadata is causing problems. They can articulate their problems and, once collected, you can articulate the causes of, and solutions to, the problems. Through carefully crafted questions, users and authors can articulate their problems without feeling pressured to offer solutions.
On a recent project, taxonomy was not part of the initially estimated work. As I conducted research with authors on their problems with the website, it became clear that a lack of taxonomy was preventing them from realizing their goals of pages that were easier to maintain and related content that was easier to reference. Different teams within the organization created content about the same or related topics, but many times these authors didn’t know or couldn’t find this related content. As it turns out, the project team didn’t know what taxonomy was or how it could be used.
When educating others, it’s important to remember that people need just enough detail to make a decision. A project manager needs enough information to know how taxonomy will decrease development time; a UI designer needs enough detail to integrate the taxonomy into the design; a programmer needs enough detail to be able to investigate the taxonomy capabilities in the CMS and develop using the taxonomy; authors need enough detail to know how to select the right taxonomy terms.
Discover what stakeholders want in a new or revised website.
…stakeholder analysis is so important at the start of the project, because this is part of what stakeholder analysis does – uncover what is important to key influencers and beneficiaries of your project.
As you interview stakeholders, you’ll discover what’s important to them. You can turn around and address these needs when you try to sell your vision.
Sell a Vision
Given the problems with content on this recent project, I spoke with the project manager and gave him a vision of what his website could do for him. I knew that he wanted to improve efficiency of the website, wanted to streamline work between teams, and improve search. I told him how taxonomy works, how it’s created, and how it’s used on a website. Instead of selling him on “a list of tags,” I sold him on a vision.
“With taxonomy, you can tag your content with different categories, such as topics, departments, services. Instead of building a page by hand with hard-coded URLs to each page, you can build it with terms from the taxonomy and the pages can be automatically updated. Instead of different teams creating the same content because they don’t know what exists, they can look up content by different topics in order to re-use or reference content. Instead of users getting 1000 strange search results, they’ll get results relevant to their keyword search and be able to filter these results to make them more applicable.”
And Provide Statistics
While a vision and qualitative research is wonderful inspiration, it can help to have some kind of statistics or measurements of the current state.
Quantitative analysis ensures your project is grounded in reality, and has measurable impact in changing that reality. The most typical quantitative approach is the so-called ROI analysis – how much dollar value do I get out of this project from the dollars I have pumped in? Numbers look objective, so they inspire confidence more than opinions do.
Because you’ll need to “sell” taxonomy to different types of people, including some kind of quantitative analysis can speak to a specific type of audience (those who like numbers). When you’re conducting your discovery, what quantitative measurements can you discover? How many searches end in zero results? How many searches are abandoned? How do users rate search or browsing of the site? How do authors rate their ability to find information?
Keep in mind that when selling a new idea to your organization, it will take time and persistence to convince others of the value and need for taxonomy. By doing your research, selling a vision, and providing some quantitative measures, you can build your case for a taxonomy and sell taxonomy to your company.