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Why use taxonomies and how to design your own

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Taxonomy is a way to categorize pieces of content. You can use taxonomy to organize your content by purpose, audience, or any other aspects important to your business. In, you can tag the content items and digital assets in your projects to organize them however you need.

Dive deeper into taxonomies

If you're completely new to taxonomies, go through our crash course on taxonomies where you'll learn about what a taxonomy is, what it's useful for, and how you can start using it. 

Table of contents

    Why use taxonomies?

    By organizing your content with taxonomies, you can:

    • Avoid content duplication. Taxonomies make it easy to check what content is already available.
    • Discover content efficiently. Taxonomies use one term to connect content items and assets with a common property, making it easy to find what you're looking for.
    • Filter content. The structure of the taxonomy allows you to filter content items and assets in and easily find what you need.
    • Serve content based on context. Use taxonomies to serve your customers dynamic content, such as related articles or products they might be interested in.

    How to design a good taxonomy

    When creating a taxonomy, you need to make a few decisions to end up with a well-functioning result.

    1. Scope

    Decide what your taxonomy needs to cover. For example, if you're selling cars, you want to cover car types, brands, fuel, and so on.

    2. Granularity

    Think about how detailed you need the taxonomy to be. Always base this on what's important to your business. Don't categorize just for the sake of categorization.

    Below is an example of how NOT to do it. See what's wrong and do better. 🤞🏻

    Too complicated categorization with levels that don't add much value. People buying cars typically don't need to know which continent and country the brand is from.

    3. One term per concept

    When you have the scope and granularity sorted out, you need to pick one term for each concept.

    For instance, some people say cars run on gas, others call it petrol. It's the same thing. Pick one term, avoid confusion.

    4. Define the terms

    Define what the terms are intended for. That's important so people in your organization know the term gas, for instance, is intended for cars that run on petrol in British English.

    Best practices for structuring your terms

    Meet the following rules and you'll create a taxonomy that's functional and easy to use.

    Family terminology in the world of taxonomies

    Taxonomy relationships are comparable to family relationships. When people talk about relationships among taxonomy terms, they use the words parent, child, and sibling, just like in family relationships.

    Make the terms mutually exclusive

    For example, having terms like adult cats and elderly cats as siblings wouldn't work because every elderly cat is also an adult cat.

    If you require that distinction, use nesting and put elderly cats under adult cats.

    Each term needs to have only one parent

    Taxonomy terms can't have more than one parent. It would complicate the taxonomy.

    For instance, having the term kittens both under cats and under non-adult pets leads to confusion. Is it the same term or not?

    Taxonomy terms must be unique

    If your taxonomy contains both the terms petrol and gas, people won't know which term to pick. Your taxonomy's going to be confusing and less useful.

    Terms with identical names aren't unique even if they're under different parents. For example, two terms labeled adults where one is under cats and the other is under dogs are confusing because people need to check parents of the terms to pick the right one.

    What's next?