IA Writing Assignment

Information Architecture is an important focus of web design but is not so easily definable. However, for purposes of this post, Information Architecture (IA) shall be defined as the structural design and framework of content on a website. Its purpose is to allow users to easily find what they’re looking for. This blog post will focus on the aspects of taxonomy and folksonomy.

Taxonomy

Taxonomy is the organization of information. The two elements of this are classification and hierarchy. Classification classifies, or groups, similar elements of a site together. Hierarchy ranks information according to various filters. These classifications are created by the content or website author. Taxonomy allows for classification and hierarchy to intertwine by categorizing items within a system. For example, taxonomy recognizes that roses are a sub-class of flowers.

The benefits of taxonomy are that it creates an orderly method of organization which allows for efficient searching and sorting of websites. It may feel a bit “stiff” and “inflexible” at times since there is no input from users and consumers, but taxonomies allow for a more streamlined search and classification process.

Taxonomy: Staple’s product categories are hierarchical and created by the author

Folksonomy

Folksonomy is another way of categorizing information. The difference between taxonomy and folksonomy is that folksonomy tags are added to sites by individual users. The benefit of this is that each individual consumer of a website is able to organize information in a way that makes sense to them; they allow for consumer input. The disadvantage of folksonomies is that they lack hierarchy and precision. There are no prescribed tags or classifications but are individual user-driven.

Folksonomy: Twitter’s hashtags are an example of user tags

Conclusion

While taxonomy and folksonomy are both methods of organizing and classifying website content, they are quite different. Taxonomy is hierarchical and consistent while folksonomy is a flat method of individual user based classification. However, both work to improve the usability and accessibility of websites and to allow users to access the information they are searching for with greater ease. It will be interesting to see whether folksonomy or taxonomy will increase in user preferences in the future.

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