You’ll sometimes hear navigation, taxonomy and even metadata used interchangeably, but to the information architect, these three different concepts work together to make your content work for you.
The navigation is what we all see on your website — the tabs across the top or down the side that direct users to sections of the site. We’ll quickly point out that we’ve never seen an org chart that made a useful navigation, no matter how many times we’ve seen it tried. Your customers don’t call your stuff the same thing you call it, and if you want to be successful, you’ll use the terms they prefer on your website. Need help figuring out what they think? We can help with that.
The taxonomy is often a hierarchy, as well, but it’s the hierarchy where you store your information. It’s not always the same as what you show your customers in the navigation. Usually, it’s more complex and multi-faceted. For a starting point, think of your taxonomy as a directory of every single kind of information on your website. Rarely is your navigation so complex, but you need a way to categorize everything so you can find it and render it correctly to your customer. Your taxonomy is the framework on the back end. Your taxonomy may be a place where you use your own terms, instead of your customer’s terms.
Metadata is a catalog of the information about each content item. Metadata is information about information, right? So it’s the information about each piece of content. For an image, the metadata might include width, height, orientation and file type. For an event, it might include start and end times and dates. For a news article, it might include the city and state, or the topic, or the section of the site. Perhaps you’d mark an age range or location that indicates the intended audience.
Metadata is also a place where we get into data interoperability. There are a number of standard metadata schemes, and if you want your content to be re-used and syndicated, you need to ensure you’re using universal standards for your metadata, at a minimum.
Because so much of this is on the back end, it’s frequently neglected. If your content isn’t working hard enough for you, this may be a place to evaluate carefully. Learn how Creek Content can help improve your information architecture for better business strategy.