516-610-8669 maureenm5@me.com

Hierarchy & Taxonomy Harmonization

“…feedback I got from the team: 

from Terry: gotta go, but this is exactly inline with our thinking
from Kim: My thought is WOW, I want this all now!”

Project Brief

The client’s individual departments had separate ownership of web site sectors and organized their product information in different hierarchies, and with different labels.

Recognizing that this created very confusing experiences for site visitors, the client wanted to harmonize these hierarchies into a unified one, and create a unified taxonomy.

Success / Feedback

Overwhelming positive feedback from the stakeholders. Even though the realization of what lay ahead for them to do was overwhelming, they conceptually understood the issues I’d uncovered and what I proposed to rectify it. And they were eager to jump in and get started overhauling things on their end.

Challenges That I Overcame

  • I was not able to ask technical product questions or get any verification on my product questions.
  • Even the stakeholders were not able to obtain this information internally. Those people with enough product knowledge to answer such questions were considered “inaccessible”.
    I used as much intelligence as I could gather from the client’s site, wikipedia, competitive sites, and other technology resources as surrogates for the inaccessible subject matter experts.
  • Significant decision-making power was in the hands of people who had no understanding of how their decisions affected web site visitors. Business rules, product alignments, and marketing messages were constantly changing as a result of those decisions, and were often inconsistent, wreaking havoc on the site experience.
  • Not only did these challenges exist for me, it explained why the stakeholders had the poor/inconsistent categorizations and bad data management habits. They were continually forced to “fit square pegs into round holes” in terms of the company’s taxonomy.

Direct Contributions

  • I dove deeply into the client’s 2500-product database to isolate categorization differences. I identified that data management issues also existed on top of the conceptual differences in product categorization between the departments.
  • I deconstructed all the product information and then reconstructed it in a consistent manner, and gave guidance on how to manage the information going forward. Doing so required an explanation of the differences between hierarchical items and attributes.
  • Multi-facted deliverable (audit, data model, high-level IA, light wireframes)
  • Competitive research
  • Subject matter research

Concept model close-up

Concept model sample

Guidance: Information Architecture