Audience Centric Taxonomies: Talk to Them Like You Know Who They Are

For many organisations, providing a single way to navigate information resources is unlikely to meet the increasingly complex needs of a diverse audience of users.

Forcing users to locate resources in a fixed manner is usually the main culprit in most failed taxonomy implementations. This problem is especially pronounced when users are migrating from their own information 'silos' to organisation-wide repositoies. To reduce resistance from users and to ease the transition into an environment that is more conducive to knowledge sharing and collaboration, multiple taxonomies reflecting the preferred discovery patterns and terminology of different user groups are highly recommended.

Those who have implemented taxonomies may immediately balk at this idea, since it could lead to a maintenance nightmare. However, we found that it is possible to both customize taxonomies for different user groups and to keep maintenance efforts to the minimum. Of course, this must be done with the proper planning, understanding of user needs and the right tools.

And this is where Synaptica fits in perfectly. A key differentiating feature of the Synaptica taxonomy management tool is its ability to provide 'audience-centric' views to diverse sets of users, yet maintaining a single 'master' taxonomy. This nifty feature builds upon the foundation of a master taxonomy by allowing alternative preferred terminology to be defined for multiple audience segments via audience 'extensions'. Terms that are not relevant to a particular audience can be suppressed and additional details or depth that are needed by another audience can be developed - depending on which 'extensions' are being deployed onto the navigation platform (Intranet, portal e.g.).

Synaptica automatically manages the relationships between the master taxonomy and its extensions, thereby enabling consistent searching using diverse taxonomic views. More importantly, it makes maintenance seamless as changes in any term will result in automatic updates across all 'audience-centric' views, eliminating the need to duplicate efforts across multiple taxonomies.

With the help of the Taxonomy Services team at Dow Jones Client Solutions, various organisations are using, or are planning to use this feature in Synaptica to enhance the information discovery process and experience. For example, in a typical corporate setting, users from different departments can continue to browse their contents using familiar terminology and views, even though they are really using a larger enterprise-wide taxonomy. Such functionalities help to lessen user resistance while fostering knowledge sharing at the same time.

In a wider context, such as that of a digital library designed for the Public, 'audience-centric' views can be designed to provide optimized browsing for varied audience segments. For example, the browsing needs on a topic such as Health and Medical Sciences would be very different between the general public and academic/researcher segments. These are just some of the taxonomy design and maintenance considerations that Synaptica addresses.

What this all means is that with the help of an experienced taxonomy design team and the right tools, knowledge managers can truly lay the foundation for improved information discovery and sharing without having to worry about details that can already be addressed by using existing tools and best practices.

To learn more about Audience Centric Approaches please see this paper:'Audience-Centric Taxonomy: Using Taxonomies to Support Heterogeneous User Communities'. This paper describes how the National Library Board in Singapore intends to utilize audience centric taxonomy to provide enhanced information access to its multilingual, multi-cultural user community.

This post was co-written by Tan Pei Jiun, a Dow Jones Senior Taxonomy Consultant based in Singapore.

ImageFlickr stephanieasher

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