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Taxonomy and its classified value

. Clint

Taxonomy and its classified value

Taxonomy and its classified value

What is ‘taxonomy’ and what’s its value? In the simplest of definitions, taxonomy is the science and practice of classification. Everyone has used taxonomy at some point in their lives. They are all around you. They are in your grocery store, on your iPod, on your cell phone, in your computer, your kitchen, at your local library, and even in your government. They are everywhere. And everyone is a user.

Where are those taxonomies?

Your government is organized into a big taxonomy. Much like the Sears navigation there are different ‘verticals’ or top levels. There are the federal, state, regional, county and city levels of government. Everyone’s favorite government entity the Division of Motor Vehicles is a part of your state’s Department of Transportation. Each level of government has different responsibilities and provides specific products and services. Through use of government, and Mr. Crocker’s fourth grade civics lessons, we learn that our city government is responsible for the stop sign on the corner - not the federal government.

Your iPod is also full of taxonomy. In your classic iPod, you choose from Music, Videos, Photos, Podcasts or Extras. Once you choose Music, you can then navigate your way through Genres, Artists, Albums, Individual Songs or even Composers. Imagine 15,242 songs on an iPod and no way to find the one you want. A taxonomy system allows you to find and play the music you want.

E-Commerce Taxonomies

E-commerce is all about one thing – making money. Whether selling products or services, it’s all about selling something to someone. Sellers have lots of pieces of the puzzle that must fit together to attract and retain buyers to their stores. Through user testing, feedback, and other research methods, we’ve learned that our customers want a site that’s well organized and full of rich, relevant, usable content. Taxonomies are one of the corner pieces of the puzzle that is ecommerce.

A properly designed and implemented taxonomy provides an efficient, stable and scalable system for organizing products and services - and then describing them. E-commerce taxonomies reduce intricacy by representing products in a logical and culturally acceptable design. In other words, you wouldn’t expect to find side-by-side refrigerators under a heading of “Bed & Bath”.

An e-commerce display taxonomy is comprised of two primary units - hierarchy and attributes. Hierarchies are used to classify products and services, while the attributes are used to describe those products and services.

When you browse through a hierarchy of products, you’re browsing through a parent/child relationship. And with that comes a familiarity. If your goal is to find a refrigerator, while looking at the top level of terms in Sears.com’s hierarchy, the most reasonable expectation would be to find refrigerators under ‘Appliances’. Once you’ve found refrigerators, you can then choose from the remaining options to further narrow their choice until you come to class of products that you’re interested in.

Once you find the product you’re looking for, you’ll want lots of information on it. In today’s tight economy, purchasing decisions are made with forethought and certainty. You want to be confident in your decision. And the best way we can do that, is to give you all the relevant product info we can.

Using the example of refrigerators, let’s say there’s a plethora of specifications you’re interested in. You could be interested in the width, depth and height of the unit. Or maybe you want a stainless steel fridge. Or a white one. Or one with an ice maker. Or door shelves that can hold a gallon of milk. Some products can have 60 relevant attributes that will help you choose it from another. These are the marketing attributes used in a display taxonomy. With these attributes, we can supply you with everything you might need to know about a product and make that informed and confident buying decision.

On our site, you can interact with different tools and interfaces. Almost all of these are driven by a taxonomy and are dependent on the data that’s collected and stored on the site. Our Shoe Finder can’t help you, if the taxonomy doesn’t collect the size, color, or style of a shoe.

Even using a sites search capabilities, you’ll still interact with the browse hierarchy. A search term of “Battery” displays more than 2000 products in 11 different verticals on the Sears site. That’s when you can continue to narrow your selection by navigating through the display taxonomy.

Unless an e-commerce site only sells one item, no matter how you shop, you’ll interact with the taxonomy of the site. If you search for a product, you’ll still interact with either the hierarchy or the attributes. If you use a ‘Finder’ such as Shoe Finder or Battery Finder, you’ll use the attributes of the taxonomy. When you compare competing products such as a Kenmore Elite Dishwasher to the Kenmore Pro unit, you’re using attributes. Every user on a site will interact with the taxonomy some way, somehow.

Without taxonomy, there is no ecommerce.


Let them shop…

. Mark Schraad

Let them shop...

Not only let them shop, but let them shop the way they want. If you listen in on nearly any professional sales conversation, you’re eventually going to hear the phrase ‘in the funnel’.

The funnel often refers to the buying process - but is decidedly skewed with a selling perspective. It presumes (or rather oversimplifies) that consumers have a linear and logical shopping process. And, that they go from many considerations directly to the one object they purchase. Of course, just a few minutes watching people in a mall or a quick look at nearly any web analytics will tell you that this is far from the norm.

Even at the upper end of purchasing (homes and cars), consumers are far from methodical. They wander from shiny object to shiny object and are distracted by a thousand things along the way. The more we diagnose their exact steps and process, the more we over think much of the consumer’s process.

If you talk to a thousand people, you will likely collect hundreds of theories and many more truths about shopping. So, why do we work so hard to herd consumers down ‘the funnel’? In the sales process for expensive goods, timing is everything.

In a store, sales person only gets the consumer’s attention for a short period of time. And, if they don’t push them towards the sale right now, they’ll miss the opportunity. Their goal (right or wrong) is to get the sale at all costs.

But online is different. Online, the customer is always just a couple of clicks away from the store. Opportunity is not fleeting. We can easily remember them when they come back… we can even invite them back directly, personally and with their permission.

If you are having doubts here, then I suggestion you take 10 minutes to witness for yourself. Go to any neighborhood mall on a busy Saturday or Sunday. Stand on an upper floor balcony (they all have them) where you can watch the entrance near a directory map. Count the groups of people coming in and how many of them stop at the directory. Not only will you find it largely ignored, but you’ll also witness the random path of foot traffic throughout the mall.

Online, it makes more sense to build a relationship by letting the customer shop the way they want to shop; let them wander from the ratings and reviews to the ‘how to’ section, back to the tools store and then over to shoes. If they looked twice at the humidifier along the way, we can remember that and remind them of it later. We have so many tools to help shoppers that it really makes no sense to herd them.

Paco Underhill's most excellent book ‘Why we buy’ outlines many of the pitfalls, idiosyncrasies and hurdles specific to the retail shopping environment. I dare say the biggest hurdle in the online process is facilitating how consumers shop, not dictating it.

Double Dip: Design vs. Information Architecture

. tony

Double Dip: Design vs. Information Architecture

“I stopped trying to design while doing wires. I suck if I try to do both at the same time.” A friend of mine, Petar, said this to me. He happens to be an insanely great IA and Visual Designer, but he says doing both at the same time just doesn’t work. After looking at his stuff, he was right, it did suck, and not just a little. He’s a talented guy, so what’s going on here? Was it a right-brain/left-brain thing?

Not as talented as my buddy, but no slouch either, I decided to tackle both areas at once and see what happens. I started small: just an in-page gallery that pulled in related products. And guess what? I could only concentrate on one thing at a time. When I thought about aesthetics, I’d lose focus on functionality, and vice-versa. So what’s the deal?

My theories

Design requires a high level of thought and cannot be compromised by trivial things.

Information Architecture requires a high level of thought and cannot be compromised by trivial things.

Design is good, IA is evil.

IA is good, design is evil.

All plausible theories, but hard to prove. What I do know is this: information architecture is like the foundation and support system of a house, and design is like the finish. Not revolutionary, but think about it: if you tried to build a house at the same time you were laying the foundation, the walls would come tumbling down.

A respected designer once said, “Great design is thinking like a 2 year old.” And a knowledgeable IA said, “IA is the art of making people feel like they’ve been there before.”

Great design gets to what’s important and strips away the rest. It makes sense and strikes and emotional chord. Great IA makes the unfamiliar, familiar. It engages customers, shows them where to go and what to do, and inspires them to purchase products, sign up for services or get more info. Design is form, IA is function.

Hmm. Seems like they both have a lot in common in spite of their differences. Like they’re bickering brothers. One may dig art and Santana, and the other may be something of an engineer at heart (God forbid) and likes sudoku. But they share something deep.

People like me and Petar are constantly looking for that connection.