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Why Taxonomies Could and Should Rock

By Olav Andreas Frenning on January 23, 2019

Just what are Taxonomies?

Explained simply, they are categories that you define that help users
1) navigate the content in the DAM, and
2) quickly add metadata to content in the DAM by choosing from these predefined categories.

Perhaps you think of them as filters. In professional speak, they're often referred to as Controlled Vocabularies. Whichever way you like to think of them, taxonomies are very important because they alert users of your DAM to what they can find in the system and how to find it easily. And as the chief organizer of content, you will find them invaluable!

But how does a taxonomy differ from metadata? The definition of a taxonomy is "the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles that underlie such classification".

We aim to bust some of the myths and misconceptions about taxonomies and help you see how they’re indispensable in structuring content and guiding your users. That's why we believe a proper taxonomy really can rock!

Myth #1: Only librarians get a kick out of taxonomies

Fact: While librarians are generally perceived to be meticulous organizers, the work they do really benefits you when you walk into a library looking for a particular book – all you have to do is ask for the title or explain what it’s about, and a librarian will often be able to tell you the precise shelf where the book can be found.

Put yourself in your users’ shoes when they log into the DAM: What do they expect to find? Where do they expect to find it? Do your naming conventions make sense to users? Is pumpkin a fruit or a Halloween decoration? Consider your line of business, and the answer probably presents itself. When uncertain, ask your users what they expect.

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Myth #2: Taxonomies take forever to create and maintain

Fact: True, some taxonomies are very complex. But realistically, they don't have to be - and you should start small at any rate. Say you have a collection of employee photos. What would it take to make users find pictures of the right people? You could classify people by the department they work in – that alone could be massively helpful. Having done that, if there’s still too many pictures in each category, add another dimension by sub-divisions, if any, in each department. Another top-level dimension to filter by could be gender.

By planning carefully, you can create navigation that users will intuitively understand, and which doesn’t require too much clicking and navigation to find the content they’re after.

As a guiding principle, users should be able to find the right content in no more than three clicks.

Check out this taxonomy example from the White House Historical Association's Digital Library:


Myth #3: We’ll never agree on a structure

Being able to please everyone is a fantastic feeling, but realistically that’s (almost) never going to happen. 
So, our best tip is to bring on board key stakeholders, put your heads together and structure the content in a way that works for most. In the process, agree on routines for applying metadata when content is added to the system – metadata is the secret sauce that makes taxonomies work brilliantly. With well thought-out, structured metadata, setting up taxonomies will be a breeze.

Make taxonomies less taxing!

Taxonomies in a FotoWare DAM are used both for inputting metadata and as navigation when users go looking for content. Which means taxonomies can take the hassle out of adding metadata to new assets that you store in the system, and help users find content easily.

e-book Download: Succeeding with Taxonomies