I was pleasantly surprised not too long ago when I learned that a company that I had worked for during the hey day of Web 1.0 has created and hired a position focused on taxonomy. One of the key advantages of technology is to provide the tools to learn more about your information and to apply new ways of understanding that information. You need to look at this topic with a two-way mirror. You also need to provide your external customers with the ability to look at your information in new ways . One of the principle keys of extracting this information is taxonomy. One of the incredible concepts to come out of applying a taxonomy to your information is that it is self fulfilling. If engineered with the right architecture, the information can learn about itself and grow. For instance, a keyword association built against the taxonomy can generate search combinations that generate results , and then index the results against the taxonomy. This will make for a much richer and deeper taxonomy over time. We applied this method to the company I referred to earlier, and I would argue that by this point, they have one of the richest information stores in their industry today.

Conversely, If you do not know how your customers perceive the taxonomy, your website will fail miserably. Recently I asked a senior level executive at one company to breakdown his industry topics into seven key areas. He could not successfully do that. Moreover, he did not understand the need or logic for a taxonomy, believing instead that a powerful search engine would solve the problem. Yes, search engines can provide results, but they can not provide any context for the information. This is where taxonomies are critical. If I search for "bacon," I will get results for bacon and probably results that also contain eggs. That is a coincidence until it is placed inside a taxonomy. However if I know that users often look at Bacon and Eggs I can then associate "Bacon" to "Bacon and Eggs" as well as "Breakfast" and provide a much richer set of results to the customer. Today, this executive's website continues to fail in providing rich and powerful navigation (and is not bringing home "the bacon." The sad irony here is that his company is rich in information--that will never see the light of day.

Editor's Note:  This post was first published on 2/11/2008.

About Sprawlgeek.
A Seasoned Technology Visionary possessing a deep understanding of technology and business processes.

Doug has accumulated over 35 years of experience in the technology and media markets. His broad career has ranged from leading Research and Development work for a 300+ million dollar company to an E-Government startup. His efforts have been recognized by major trade associations as well as Tier 1 clients.

Doug is now a private consultant and continues to provide his insights to the industry.