Essential Assessments for Designing Enterprise Taxonomy

There is a critical difference between the designing and building phases of a taxonomy project.  Instead of collapsing or combining these phases, conducting assessments in the design phase allows for the careful design. This design produce a taxonomic structure that best serves your business objectives, your audiences’ needs, and fits in the context of your infrastructure.   If done correctly, the assessments directly support the design of the governance and maintenance processes as well.

The Taxonomy Design Phase

Designing a taxonomy is the process of defining its structure. It details how different relationships will be used, formatting of the labels, and the attributes that will be associated with each term and relationship. The design process is also the right time to consider the governance and maintenance procedures for the taxonomy along with the technical implementation considerations.

Once the design is created and approved by the business and technical stakeholders, then it’s appropriate to start building the taxonomy.

A well designed taxonomy will:

  1. Advance the business goals driving its existence

  2. Support the users interacting with it

  3. Work within the constraints of the technical infrastructure utilizing it

  4. Reflect the organization’s ability to manage and evolve it over time

In order to design a taxonomy that meets this criteria, it is essential to understand the full context in which the taxonomy lives. At a minimum, the following assessments are required.

Content related assessments

  • Business Goals – How is the taxonomy going to help the organization make money, save money, maintain legal compliance, or otherwise further its mission?

  • Existing Taxonomy – What is the current structure and what needs to be maintained or jettisoned?

  • User Experience – What is the role of information embedded in the user experience?  What is the function of taxonomies and metadata in supporting those roles?

  • Competitor Analysis – What works and doesn’t work on your competitor sites (if applicable)?

Structure related assessments

  • Technical Infrastructure – What are the capabilities of the systems and system integrations that interact with the taxonomies?

  • Workflow and Governance – How do people and systems interact with or depend upon the taxonomies in the content/information creation, management, and publication cycle?

Assessments help you understand what your taxonomy needs to do, how people are going to interact with it, and the ecosystem in which it lives. The more complex the environment, the deeper you need to dig into the assessments.

Take Time for Taxonomy

Not all projects will require all these assessments, but most will require additional ones appropriate to the organization’s context. As a starting point, the content and structure related assessments will greatly increase the relevance and success of any taxonomy project.

Finally, these assessments inform the process for building the taxonomy once it has been designed, which improves operational efficiency by making the actual building process easier and more transparent.

We’ll continue the conversation in a future post with more detail about content and structural assessment. Do you have experience with taxonomy preparation and design you’d like share? Leave a comment or contact us at

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