The Taxonomy Challenge

If you want to have some fun, study the taxonomy of top communities (well, perhaps not fun, but it’s worth doing).

The taxonomy of a community gets far less attention than it should – but it has a huge impact on the community.

Far too many communities have a terrible structure that hurts the experience for members.

You have several options. You can structure your community by:

  • User type (customer, developer, partner, reseller).
  • Product categories (product 1, 2, 3).
  • Sector (retail, B2B etc..)
  • Visiting intent (collaborate, share, get help).

…or a combination of the above?

Most communities try to do a combination of the above.

The Coveo Community, for example, has three features categories with the option to view all topics (thanks Erik!)

conveo connect community

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The Filemaker community goes with Create, Share, Integrate, Report, and Events up to two further levels of subtopics within each:

filemaker community

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The HP community, like many in the B2C sector, go with specific product categories:

HP Community

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The Dropbox community goes with visitor intent as the prime navigation method:

dropbox navigation

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Get survey data to determine what members prefer best (or test different approaches). Do they prefer to browse by intent, user type, product type, or some other issue? This is a simple survey question to ask.

A few things to be aware of here.

1) If you’re using Salesforce, be aware it’s a terrible platform for superordinate topic structures. For example, the ‘Many to Many’ topic on Filemaker is under Create > Relationships by navigation, but discussions for Many to Many won’t show up under Relationships or Create unless specifically tagged with those names. Trust me, this is a real pain.

2) Unless topics can be suggested from the content of discussions, know that most members will simply select the default (or easier) one. If there’s a ‘general’ option, they will use it.

3) Most members are too lazy to tag a question with more than one topic unless it’s automatically suggested as an option for them. Apple (below) is a good example of making it easy to tag multiple topics instead of trying to think of the right answer.

Apple Question

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