There’s a lot of content on your company’s website or intranet, but how do your website visitors or intranet users find the information that they need? They might choose to browse around the site by means of navigational links. Or they might instead chose to use the site search engine. Either way, how easy is it for them to find what they are looking for?
Having searched for information yourself on large websites, you already know that it’s not always easy to find the specific content that you want. Here’s what Intranet Design Magazine wrote about the challenges of information retrieval. Although it discuss company intranets, it applies to websites as well:
In addition to the above-mentioned articles, Brian O’Leary (in Book:A Futurist’s Manifesto) had this to say:
So what should you do to overcome these challenges? Simply put, talk to us about our taxonomy services. Here are some essential steps we take when providing taxonomy services, to ensure quality information retrieval:
- To start off, all of your web pages or intranet pages must contain keywords. This is a form of metadata which is a great aid in information retrieval.
- As mentioned in the quote above, keyword tags must be applied consistently for all pages. Synonymous terms must be entered by whoever inputs the keywords. This allows users to search for an item or concept using different terms or phrases that mean the same thing as the terms or phrases used in the text of the web or intranet pages.
- Keywords must also include broader terms for the word. An example of this (for a medical web site) would be the phrase “root canal.” If the page was only tagged with the term “root canal” and a user typed the term “dentistry” into the site search box, the page would not be retrieved, even though it most certainly is about dentistry.
- Keywords must include narrower terms for the word. Just flip the situation we just mentioned around. If a page was only tagged with the term “dentistry” because that is the main topic of the page, but several paragraphs discussed root canals, and a user typed in the term “root canal” into the site search box, the page would not be retrieved, even though there is some information on it about root canals.
- It would also be helpful for users to be guided to related information, by means of “See also” references.
So how can all of this vocabulary be controlled? By creating a taxonomy or a knowledge organization system which clearly defines synonymous terms, broader terms, narrow terms and even relationships between terms.
That’s what we do.
The result is users find all of the information that they are looking for, without having to wade through hundreds (or even thousands) of irrelevant documents.
BIM has created taxonomies (or helped implement them) for medical and financial institutions as well as for ecommerce sites. Here are some of the projects that have we worked on:
Healthstream is a provider of online medical training courses, supplying content for WebMD and other Web-based educational resources for the medical community. Healthstream had a search engine on their site, but it was hard to use to find specific courses that they offered. They turned to BIM. We developed a taxonomy of all of the major terms that appeared within the courses. We then went about creating keyword meta-tags for each of the 774 courses. Healthstream is pleased to now have a keyword system that works along with their existing search engine to retrieve truly relevant information.
Whisk already had an existing, faceted taxonomy, composed of recipe ingredients. Kevin supervised a team of Spanish-language annotators who entered the ingredients and categorized terms by facets such as attributes, forms, varieties, etc. This allows for machine reading of the recipe ingredients.
Brookhaven National Laboratory (for the U.S. Dept. of Energy):
The United States Department of Energy wanted a better system for searching through their Standards Based Management Systems on their web site. Kevin created a controlled vocabulary for use in keyword tagging of their content, along with a site index. The index alone added up to over 200 pages when printed out. BNL created a navigation system for internal use, based on the taxonomy.
21st Century Online:
BIM cataloged articles within their online magazine. We also provided consulting services regarding structure, navigation, and labeling schemes for their web site.
Twenty-First Century Investors:
Desiring an intuitive method of searching through their web site, Twenty-First Century Investors called BIM. We read through and indexed their entire web site, creating a file which was used for a “back-of-the-book” style index.
Descartes Systems Group:
BIM created a web site index as an information retrieval system for their corporate site.
BIM cataloged information from a large, well-known online book store for marketing purposes.
BIM created abstracts of information on one-to-one marketing from over 65 various web sites. The information was included in a searchable database.