Taxonomy, Metadata, and Semantic Integration

Make your content findable, discoverable, and more usable
Previewing helpful related content next to the words it relates to

Previewing helpful extra information next to the words it relates to

Content is wasted if users can’t find it. Taxonomy lets you bring users to the right information quickly, with smart links, filters, and markup to help search engines read your content. Findability may not be enough, though. Taxonomy can also make your information more discoverable, to help users research solutions or look for new ways to use your products. Yet, if you don’t speak to users’ needs, the opportunity is still wasted. Through the discipline of taxonomy and metadata architecture, you can better focus and phrase your writing so that it works precisely as intended.

Mekon specializes in taxonomy solutions for technical organizations, such as manufacturers, software houses, and regulatory bodies. Clients who are improving their user experience and content efficiency with our taxonomy work include Atlas Copco, Talend, Cray, and CIPD.

How taxonomy can help you

A search for content typically starts from Google, Baidu, or another search engine. Few people will start their hunt for information on your site, unless you operate in a highly specialized sector or access is restricted for security reasons. To rank well on search engines and be selected from the results page, you need more than just informative content. You need to use language that searchers will recognize. You need semantic markup that helps search engines understand what you’re talking about. And, once people actually click through to your site, you need navigation and links to take users directly from the page they land on to the page they want. Taxonomies and taxonomy-based applications are invaluable in this environment. They provide the crucial plumbing and wiring – the terms, metadata, and logic to guide your customers from Google to your site and route them to the actual content they need.

On your site, applications of a taxonomy can go well beyond faceted browsing and better site search. They can help users research a subject area, or even find new product features, thus supporting marketing efforts. One way that taxonomy does this is through relevant content suggestions — not just based on common keywords but on the intersection of key metadata fields. Another way is by connecting paragraphs or phrases in your content with the real-world things and actions that they describe, for example to provide automatic links between content silos such as marketing and support, or training and research.

Automatically generating relevant related links using an intersection of taxonomy facets

Dynamically generating relevant related links using an intersection of taxonomy facets

Taxonomies also help you track your content against reader needs, so that you can focus your efforts on the areas that will have the most benefit. When combined with structured content, taxonomy can reduce effort and improve the accuracy of the content itself, by managing your templates and metadata consistently and reducing mechanical work for authors.

To achieve these benefits takes time and careful planning, but Mekon will guide you through the process using an iterative approach, so that ideas are tested and benefits demonstrated at an early stage. As each new layer of the taxonomy or piece of the user experience is developed, we constantly test and help you improve the solution.

Starter taxonomy plan

The idea of developing a taxonomy can raise daunting questions. Will it take months of analysis and training? Will fitting everything into neat containers destroy authors’ creativity? Can you use metadata and terminology that’s already out there, so you don’t have to start from scratch? And, crucially, how much benefit can you get from taxonomy in the first place?
Our starter plan addresses these questions, giving you:

  • A clear picture of the benefits that you can get from taxonomy, the effort that will be needed, and any software gaps.
  • An initial mapping of user needs to actual and potential metadata fields in your content.
  • A proof-of-concept faceted taxonomy that demonstrates both the breadth and depth of the taxonomy that will need to be developed, adopted, or repurposed from existing resources.
Developing a proof-of-concept taxonomy in the PoolParty Semantic Suite

Developing a proof-of-concept taxonomy in PoolParty

The process typically starts with an onsite visit by one of our consultants over one or two days, so that we rapidly understand your current pain points and the potential benefits of taxonomy for your organization. We diagram key user groups, content types, contributors, and processes, so that the risks and opportunities of your current situation are clearly understood. We also take into account your current tools and IT environment. After the visit, we agree the main purpose and focus of the taxonomy work with the project sponsor and key stakeholders

We then analyze your content and, working with you, map the identified user needs to the potential metadata that could meet them.

We work with you to develop a proof-of-concept taxonomy. During this process, you learn key principles and practices of taxonomy development.

Optionally, we can work with you on a technical proof of concept, to show some very tangible benefits as well as paving the way for a faster, more straightforward future implementation.

Finally, we present the proof of concept work together with our findings to your senior management. Taxonomy is a key piece of strategic infrastructure, and this presentation allows your organization to fully prepare for the opportunities that it brings.

Metadata framework and taxonomy mentoring

Taxonomy should be a strategic piece of your organization’s infrastructure, and its benefits extend for many years, over different departments and projects. However, development always needs to start with at least one concrete project or pilot. We can coach you to develop your taxonomy at any time, but we recommend that you build this knowledge model at the same time as starting the technical design for a taxonomy-driven application. In a typical implementation:

  • We develop the application requirements, or help you refine existing requirements.
  • Based on the requirements and associated user stories, we establish the metadata fields that are needed and the content objects that they apply to. This can be metadata in XML documents or as fields in content management systems.
  • As soon as the application requirements and metadata model start to take shape, we help you develop your taxonomy, or repurpose existing taxonomies in a way that works for your situation. While we typically take a coaching approach so that you gain taxonomy skills, we can also take the lead in developing the taxonomy for you.
  • If the application or the wider business case requires more precise ontological relationships between the concepts in your taxonomy, we also work with you on this.

The deliverables from this phase include a requirements document, metadata framework, and taxonomy or ontology. It is often very helpful to conduct a pilot, small-scale implementation at this point, for which we can either work with your existing IT providers or perform the integration and development work ourselves.

Semantic integration projects

With many years’ experience in system integration, semantic tagging, and structured content, we are well equipped to develop your taxonomy solution. This is best carried out iteratively, allowing for refinement of the metadata framework, ontology, etc., in the light of early testing on initial versions. Implementations typically include one or more of:

  • CMS integration: Allows users to benefit from the kinds of navigation and discovery features described above. It also lets authors easily tag content semantically, through integration with the CMS’s own editing tools or external tools.
  • Taxonomy with dynamic structured content/DITA management and delivery: This provides the best return on investment (ROI) from your intelligent content by delivering better findability, user experience, technical accuracy, and efficiency.
  • Advanced semantic search: Lets you gain insights and answer users’ questions by querying across all your content, both structured and unstructured.

Next steps

To discover how taxonomy could help you, or to discuss your integration needs, email moc.nokem@ofni or call +44 (0)20 8722 8400.