Taxonomy UX: What is it, benefits, and what are the best practices?
Taxonomy is the act of grouping information into relevant sets or categories. In the realm of UX research, it allows for the sorting and segmenting of investigative results, data, and concepts into organized classes for easy analysis and comprehension.
To easily understand what Taxonomy is, imagine walking into a library where books are arranged with no particular order: science fiction side by side with ancient history, romantic novels stacked with math textbooks. Your simple task: find a book on astronomy. Difficult, right?
This is a similar challenge many users face when navigating poorly structured websites or apps. This is where UX Taxonomy comes into play. Just as an expert librarian organizes books so visitors can efficiently find what they're looking for, UX Taxonomy is in charge of logically and accessibly organizing and labeling digital content.
If you've ever felt frustrated not finding what you're looking for on a website or app, or have marveled at how intuitive a platform can be, it's very likely that behind those experiences were crucial taxonomy-related decisions.
In this article, we will dive into the science behind these decisions and discover how good UX Taxonomy can transform a user's experience from confusing to clear, from frustrating to smooth.
What is taxonomy?
Taxonomy, at its core, is a science dedicated to the process of classification. While it's a term widely known in biology for classifying organisms, in the world of design and user experience (UX), it takes on a unique and critical dimension.
UX Taxonomy refers to the act of grouping information into relevant sets or categories within digital platforms, such as websites or mobile apps. Its goal is to structure information so that users can navigate and access content in an intuitive and efficient manner.
The role of taxonomy in UX design
Taxonomy is not just about organizing information. Its role goes further, influencing how users perceive and relate to content. Effective taxonomic design facilitates flow and interaction, while poor taxonomy can create barriers, confuse users, and increase bounce rates.
How it works
UX Taxonomy involves several stages. It starts with identifying all types of content present on a platform. Then, these are grouped based on common characteristics or user behavior patterns. These groups are labeled and organized into a hierarchy that reflects the user's needs and expectations.
Benefits of good UX taxonomy
When properly implemented, UX Taxonomy can:
Reduce the time users spend searching for information.
Increase user satisfaction when interacting with a platform.
Improve conversions and reduce bounce rates.
Facilitate updating and expanding content in the future.
Importance of taxonomy in UX design
User experience (UX) design is about understanding and addressing user needs, expectations, and behaviors. An essential part of this understanding lies in how information is presented and organized in a digital environment. This is where Taxonomy plays a pivotal role.
Facilitates web navigation
The logical organization of information based on UX Taxonomy helps users quickly find what they are looking for. A well-structured taxonomy guides users through an intuitive path, reducing friction and minimizing the need to think too much or search excessively.
Improves retention and comprehension of information
When information is presented in an organized manner, users not only find what they're looking for faster but also retain and better understand that information. Properly categorized and labeled content allows users to construct a clear mental picture of where everything is and how it's related.
Ensures greater consistency
A robust taxonomy sets a standard for content organization. This means that, regardless of who adds or modifies content, there's a consistent framework to base it on. This leads to a more consistent user experience over time.
For designers and developers, having a clear taxonomy reduces ambiguity and facilitates more informed design decisions. It also allows for quicker and more effective implementation of new features and content.
Enhances emotional connection with users
A smooth, frictionless user experience, driven by good taxonomy, can result in a positive emotional connection. Users feel valued and understood, which can lead to greater loyalty to the brand or platform.
Key Components of UX Taxonomy
UX Taxonomy is not an arbitrary process; it is based on foundational components that ensure the content organization is logical and coherent. Below, we explore the essential components that make up a robust and effective taxonomy:
Categories: Categories are high-level groupings that separate content into broad thematic blocks. These should be mutually exclusive to avoid confusion and overlaps. For example, in an e-commerce website, categories might include "Clothing", "Electronics", "Home", among others.
Subcategories: Subcategories further break down categories into more specific segments. Following the previous example, under the "Clothing" category, we might have subcategories like "Men", "Women", "Children", or even "T-shirts", "Pants", "Shoes".
Tags: Tags provide a way to associate cross-cutting themes or features that aren't confined to a single category or subcategory. For instance, a tag like "Eco-friendly" could apply to products across several categories, from clothing to appliances.
Hierarchy: Hierarchy is the order and structure used to organize categories, subcategories, and sometimes tags. It defines the relationship between different levels and how users will navigate through them. The right hierarchical structuring can ease navigation and enhance the usability of the site or app.
Relations: Beyond standard hierarchy, there might be additional relations between different pieces of content. For example, "Related", "Suggested", or "Complementary" products on an e-commerce site. These relationships aid in enhancing navigability and boosting user interaction.
Metadata: Metadata are additional pieces of information about content that aren't necessarily visible to end-users but are vital for internal organization and search systems. They might include details like author, publication date, keywords, among others.
Navigation and Menus: Once taxonomy is defined, it translates into navigation systems and menus. These visual components allow users to explore and access content based on the established taxonomic structure.
Each component of UX Taxonomy plays a pivotal role in organizing, presenting, and accessing content. Together, these components craft a seamless and cohesive user experience, ensuring content is easily locatable and relevant to the user's needs.
Practical examples of UX Taxonomy:
Understanding the theory behind UX Taxonomy is vital, but analyzing practical examples helps us visualize its application in real-life scenarios. Let's look at some representative cases:
1. eCommerce store:
Categories: Clothing, Electronics, Toys, Home.
Subcategories (for Clothing): Men, Women, Children; or T-shirts, Pants, Dresses.
Tags: Eco-friendly, On Sale, Brand X.
Navigation: Dropdown menus by categories with subcategories listed, sidebar with filters based on tags.
Application: A user searching for an eco-friendly men's t-shirt can go to Clothing > Men > T-shirts and then filter by the "Eco-friendly" tag.
2. News Portal:
Categories: Politics, Economy, Culture, Sports.
Subcategories (for Culture): Cinema, Music, Art.
Tags: Latest News, Opinion, Interview.
Navigation: Main menus for categories, search bar with filtering options by tags and subcategories.
Application: Someone interested in the latest cinema interviews can go to Culture > Cinema and filter by the "Interview" tag.
Tips for Implementing Effective UX Taxonomy
When executed correctly, UX taxonomy can be a potent pillar in the design of any digital experience. To ensure that this structure plays in the user's favor, here are some key tips for implementing an effective taxonomy:
Research the user: Before you start, it's crucial to understand your target audience. Use surveys, interviews, and usability tests to know how they search, consume, and structure information in their minds.
Avoid jargon: Ensure that the categories, subcategories, and tags are understandable to all users, not just experts in the subject. Terminology should be clear and straightforward.
Prioritize flexibility: The digital world changes rapidly. Your taxonomy should be flexible enough to accommodate new content or structural changes without causing confusion.
Consider scalability: Think about the future. If you anticipate content growth or expansion, the taxonomy should adapt without requiring a complete overhaul.
Use card sorting: This technique involves asking users to organize content into categories that make sense to them. It's a great way to gain insights into how users perceive and classify information.
Conduct tree testing: After defining a structure, use tree testing to validate that users can effectively find content. This can help identify problem points in your taxonomy.
Don't be afraid to iterate: If something isn't working, don't hesitate to make changes. UX taxonomy is as much an art as it is a science, and finding the perfect structure may require multiple attempts and tweaks.
By following these tips, you can guarantee a smoother and more satisfying experience for users and a more manageable structure for content creators and developers.
A POWERFUL TOOL
Taxonomies are a potent way to build content relationships in digital products and are the hidden organizational systems backstage that fill the gaps which user-oriented navigation systems might leave.
When defined and maintained correctly, a taxonomy can support better search suggestions and subsequent search refinements, faceted navigation, and automatic linking of related content.