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Taming Taxonomy Interview with Jessica DuVerneay and Alberta Soranzo

Last month's Los Angeles User Experience Meetup event regarding Taxonomy offered the Media Contour team an excellent opportunity to learn about and develop a better understanding of website taxonomy. Media Contour had the chance to conduct a pre-show interview with speakers Jessica DuVerneay and Alberta Soranzo.Jessica DuVerneay is an information architect at the Understanding Group. Alberta Soranzo is both the manager of user experience and strategy at the UCLA Center for Health Policy and Research and senior information architect at the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights. They are both highly regarded in the fields of information architecture and user experience. Below are excerpts from the interview which cover the main ideas of their presentation.

Why Add Taxonomy to a Website

The first major topic of discussion focused on the core definition of taxonomy in the context of website design.

JESSICA DUVERNEAY: The first thing I want to say is that it's not something you just add to your project. It's not like if you get this service you should get this service too, and if you get wireframes, you might as well get functional specs. At least that’s the way that I look at it. It’s like, is it even a problem? For some clients it may not be a problem. If you're working in a really small property and your language is very clear, very domain specific or there's industry standards that are really easy to follow, not everybody needs a taxonomy. It is more for you know the thing that I'm seeing, why it's really relevant right now is because so many people are taking their old kind of main site and they are trying, they are realizing that the strategy of creating 15 micro-sites each time they have a new launch or a new iteration of a product. It has not been serving them well because they have confusing language. Something is called a shirt over here, it is called a blouse over here. You can't track SEO events. And really, I mean if you are going to look at it from a high level taxonomy, it just gives you an agreed upon structure that increases learnability and the findability of the your content on your website. That is the high level answer.

“Something is called a shirt over here, it is called a blouse over here. You can't track SEO events.” Jessica Duverneay

Practices of Taxonomy

The second major topic allowed for the team to distinguish between the traditional meaning of the word taxonomy and the meaning of how it is used for websites. Here we learn that taxonomy is inherent of its company culture.

ALBERTA SORANZO: I think it is tricky because we use the word 'taxonomy' which is a scientific word. And so if you look at taxonomies in science, you think of taxonomy as a categorization. That is generally how people understand it. In sciences the categorization of things is relatively simple because we construct families and you can easily place objects in one group rather than another. When we think of a taxonomy for a website, we deal with meaning and perception, which are highly subjective concepts. Which is why research—reviewing existing taxonomies, keyword research, user and vernacular research, is crucial to building a meaningful taxonomy. The goal, when building taxonomies, is to essentially identify and outline a consensus of meanings.

Taxonomy As a Service

The third significant topic discussed was how taxonomy is provided as a service. Understanding taxonomy as a step in the website design process supports the practice and reason for it in the first place.

JESSICA DUVERNEAY: We have had clients come to us and say we need a taxonomy. “When our team is writing an article they are using eight different words for the same thing in the article titles and it is really confusing to our consumers.” My consultancy never really try to sell taxonomy. Clients come to us with their problems and we say here are the activities that we can do to mitigate these issues. So somebody comes to us and they do not know what to label things. We have all these different things and they are called different things in different places. We are like, oh, it sounds like you might need some taxonomy work then it is our job to do the burden of proof -- here is why this is a problem and here is a case study where this has helped a client in the past.This pre-show interview was the perfect lead into this beginning / mid level practitioner-focused event. A case study was presented to provide an example of how to create and implement a successful taxonomy. A tool demo and peer to peer learning activity provided the chance for audience members to learn through application. The speakers and the audience members acted as one in the peer to peer learning group to help fully realize everything taxonomy has to offer for a website. Overall it was an excellent opportunity for the members of the Los Angeles Web Design Community to learn about taxonomy. Many thanks to Jessica DuVerneay and Alberta Soranzo and the The Los Angeles User Experience Meetup. A stream of the event can be found here: http://vimeo.com/66485666.http://vimeo.com/66485666

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8 Common Web Design Mistakes That Ruin User Experience (UX)

Throughout the Internet you can find all manner of articles and blogs dedicated to telling you exactly what you need to do to create the perfect website design for mobile devices. You’ll hear different opinions on content, context, and outright design features that are a must for your site to be successful on the mobile web. However, few of these articles and blogs address the mobile website design issues that could be holding your site back, like these.

Overwhelming text

People who are using the mobile web are often people who are on the go. They want to look information up quickly and with as little pain in the process as possible. Don’t make them scroll through a ton of information they don’t need in order to find what they’re looking for. Less, really is more, when it comes to mobile website design content.

Use of Pop Ups

Pop ups are annoying in the best of times, and downright loathsome in the worst. On mobile devices, they can be completely problematic. It’s best to disable them altogether on your mobile website design for the convenience of users if nothing else.

Burying Your Call to Action

Mobile screens are small. Keep your call to action above the fold (in the visible screen people see when they land on your site) or your conversion rates will suffer.

Not Having a Responsive Design

Different devices are different sizes. You need to have a mobile website design that accounts and adjusts according to these variations. Failing to do so renders your content unreadable to some, if not most, of your target audience.


Links and Objects Too Close

Some fingers are fatter, flatter, or altogether less nimble than others when it comes to navigating around on their mobile devices. Placing links and objects too close together on the screen leads to a great deal of wasted bandwidth (a real problem now that so many characters have dropped their unlimited data options).

Buttons Too Small

Again the problem comes down to fingers. Not only do the buttons need to be large enough for the fingers to fit, but they also need to be spaced an appropriate distance apart so that fingers aren’t constantly tapping the button to the left or right of their intended targets.

Long, Complicated Forms

Mobile devices are portable, and are designed for people on the go. Often times people are in a hurry trying to get to the information they want in a timely, painless manner. Long, complicated forms make this impossible. Ask for as little information as possible from users if a form is absolutely necessary. If it isn’t necessary, save it for your desktop-friendly sites and skip it on the mobile websites.

Not Testing

Test, retest, and then test again. Test your site on multiple devices, multiple platforms, and in multiple conditions to ensure that your mobile website design is firing on all cylinders – not to mention providing a favorable experience for users on each of these mobile platforms.

These things are all small adjustments you can make in your mobile website design that will decrease user headaches and improve user experiences. Give them a try today and enjoy great improvements in response to your mobile sites.

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Effectively Integrating Social Media and Blogs Into Corporate Websites

Among the most successful business and corporate websites out there are those that manage to incorporate blogs and social media into their overall web presences. Doing so requires quite a bit of thought. It also requires diligence. These three elements can mix very well, but you do need to make certain that you exercise a bit of control.

Overly Personal

Back in the day when newspapers were the primary venues for getting information about business out there, public relations firms would constantly send press releases to reporters about promotions within a business, personnel who had won some sort of award and other like stories. More often than not, these press releases got ignored. The reason is simply that most people aren't interested in this type of information about a company.One of the best ways to utilize blogs and social media presences is to tie them into the corporate websites and to make certain that it's all business. To put forward a more human face for the company, consider offering value rather than uninteresting information. For example, people will be much more interested in getting some technical information about a product that your company sells than they will about who got an award for being a particularly reliable employee.

Controlling the Message

Message control is a big part of public relations. If you have a blog set up, make certain that the company that sets it up for you gives you ways to control the posts that visitors make and the posts that the people actually filling the blog make. There should be some sort of approval process for both. Where people making the updates are concerned, it prevents blog posts from going up that may reflect negatively on the company. Where user comments are concerned, controlling the comments prevents the blog from becoming filled up with spam. Web designers can provide you with both automated and manual ways of achieving these goals for corporate websites.Social media, blogs and corporate websites can all be linked together and can function very well as a coordinated effort. There still needs to be some level of control exercised over all of them, however. At the very least, you should have technically savvy marketing people in charge of these endeavors and make certain that there is accountability built into the system. This can prevent embarrassments, accidental leaks of proprietary information and other pitfalls from becoming issues.

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Tips on how to maintain a mobile compatible website

According to many different sources, the percentage of overall webpage views made on mobile devices goes up year after year. It's important to understand what a mobile device is for most of the people who own one. They might not be surfing the Internet in the traditional fashion but they are most certainly visiting webpages, seeking information and performing many of the same tasks that they could only do at their desktop computers before mobile devices became Internet-enabled. This means that making your site mobile compatible is, indeed, a priority if you're serious about reaching out to people.

Is it Complicated?

There are, in the broadest sense, two ways that you can go about making your site mobile compatible. One way is to use a responsive design. This means that your website will detect what type of device it is being viewed on and that it will automatically adjust the size and orientation of the elements on the page to make your page more accommodating to the smaller screens on mobile devices. The second way to ensure that your site is mobile compatible, is to have a separate mobile site developed by a web designer. Either provides a workable solution.Using the mobile site isn't any more complicated than using your regular site. There's nothing that the user needs to do. In fact, you can verify this for yourself by visiting just about any well-known site on a mobile device and then visiting it on your desktop computer. You'll notice that, when you show up on your mobile device, you get a differently formatted webpage than you do when you show up on your desktop computer. Selecting the appropriate site is done automatically for you.


Well-designed mobile compatible websites generally do give the user the option of viewing the full desktop site, if they so choose. Users on devices with larger screens, such as tablet computers, may well choose to visit the full site, as the usability is not compromised by their device in any regard. Offering the choice, however, is important. Your users should have the option to use the mobile site.Mobile device usage is going up very quickly. At the same time, the speed of mobile carrier Internet connections is increasing and more people are choosing to have Internet access on their phones. This means that, to be ready for the future, you do have to have some sort of mobile compatible site set up as an option for your visitors.

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Update Your Website: What Social Media Feeds Do You Need?

If you're going to update your website, one of the things you're going to want to do for certain is to take advantage of what social media has to offer. There are some elements of social media websites that are vastly overblown in terms of how their advertising potential is described. There are other elements of the sites, however, where the realities do live up to the hype. Here are some of the feeds you will definitely want to have connected to or displayed directly on your own website.

Image Feeds

Flickr and other image sharing websites can sometimes be added to your own website in the form of a stream. If you happen to be a photographer, this is a sensible and useful addition to your website. Many photographers use these websites because it allows them to store a huge number of photos online without having to have those photos stored on their own server. Ask your website designer about having your photo feeds included when you update your website.


Twitter is definitely a service that you will want to include as you update your website, if you use it for your business. Twitter is used by many businesses to offer customers coupons, promotional offers and real-time information about what's available at their retail establishment, restaurant or eCommerce site. Remember that some of your visitors may be visiting your website but not following your Twitter feed. If this is the case, including that feed on your website enables you to get more out of the money and time you spend updating it.


You will most certainly want to post any content that you put on your Facebook newsfeed on your website, as well. You'll also want to make certain that you make it easy for people to share your website content on their Facebook news feeds. Having this sort of cross connectivity between Facebook and your website can be enormously useful. It also helps you to keep Facebook useful for advertising, as some changes to the terms of service for businesses have made it more difficult for businesses to reach out to their followers without paying.


LinkedIn is so strongly associated with people's professional lives that you will definitely want to include this when you update your website, as well. If you have a LinkedIn profile, it should be easy for your visitors to get to it from your website. Your website designer can take care of this for you when you update your website.

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Make Life Easier With An Efficient Content Management System

There was once a time when updating a website – even doing a very minor update – required you to have a working knowledge of HTML. That time has long since passed. Today, website designers can provide you with ways to update your own site using a content management system that makes it just as easy as updating the newsfeed on your social media profile or updating your Twitter feed. Here's how it works.

Content Management Systems

Content management systems are backend features for websites that make it easy to add content to pages. They include well-known names such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and others. These content management systems give you an interface that is very similar to what you see when you update a social media feed.Using a content management system properly does require a few steps. For instance, before you add written content to your website, you'll want to write that content into a word processing program, so that you can do a spell check, proofread it and take all the other necessary editing steps before you actually put it online. There are simple proofreading features built into many content management systems, but it's still a good idea to use a word processor first.[newslettersignup]


A content management system also provides a great deal of efficiency. For example, with a good content management system, you can actually upload a great deal of content and have it posted on a schedule. This completely automates the process. This is a great way to cut down on the amount of work that people have to do to keep your website updated and, of course, it's also a great way to make certain that any vital information you need to have posted on your website on a particular day isn't overlooked.A good web designer can integrate content management into your website. This allows you to update your content whenever you need to without having to worry about ruining any of the code that underpins your site. It also allows you to spend your money with web designers on updates that are complicated and that require the services of a professional, rather than having to contract a web designer to do very minor updates on your site. Using these systems, it really is just as easy to update your website content as it is to add more information to your newsfeed, your social profile or any other social media feed.

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Update Your Website : Tips On How To Collaborate With A Designer

If you're not a particularly technical person, it's always a little bit intimidating to go into the offices of a service provider and discuss what you need. If you are looking to update your website, here are some things you can do to make the process easier and to facilitate better communication with your website designer, ensuring that all of your needs are met and that the website designers themselves are aware of those needs.

Meet In-House First

If you don't own and operate a website on your own, there are probably quite a few people involved in maintaining your website. You want to make certain that you meet with all of these people first so that they can voice any concerns they have so these are taken in to account when you update your website. In particular, talk to the people who are responsible for updating your website. You need to know if they are having any issues that are making work difficult for them that can be resolved as you update your website.


If you're already working with a website designer, consider asking them to put a small survey on your site so that you can ask your visitors themselves what they would like to see changed about your website. This is a great way to get some ideas as to what you need the web designers to do as you update your website. Most web designers can add such an element to your website fairly easily and it would be well worth the modest cost to do this, particularly if your website is a venue for delivering products and services.

Write Down Ideas

When you have a good idea, write it down or e-mail it to the designer so that you don't forget to bring it up. It's a lot easier to spend a little bit of extra time meeting with the web designer and bring up all of your ideas than it is to start throwing ideas at them after they've already started developing your site.Remember not to be intimidated when you go to meet your web designer. You don't have to be technically versed in how websites work to get what you need out of the web design firm. All you need to be able to do is to give them some solid ideas about what how you want to update your website, be ready to take in some new information about how those ideas will be realized and to keep in a creative frame of mind when you're dealing with the web design firm.

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Update Your Website : Optimize Your Site For Retina Screens

The display quality of desktop computers, mobile devices and just about everything with the screen on it is increasing constantly. Lately, HD and retina displays have become standard features on just about every new device. These displays have some beautiful resolution. Watching videos on them is amazing compared to what it was before the new generation of displays hit the market. The iPad and other Apple mobile devices, in particular, are known for their tremendous display quality. This has some important implications for when you update your website.

Old Graphics Don't Cut It

Some companies have been using the same graphics for many years, porting them to their new websites when they have them redesigned. This worked very well for quite a while but, with the new display qualities available, older graphics tend to look rather amateurish and shouldn't be reused when you update your website. Updating a website isn't a one-size-fits-all procedure. Some companies will only need content updated or maybe a few features added here and there. Other companies, however, particularly those who have been recycling a lot of their content over the course of several updates, may want to take a serious look at updating the graphics.The danger in having dated graphics on a website is that it tends to make the entire website look cheap. No matter how much work was put into layout, navigation and all the other elements that make a website excellent, the presence of graphics that look pixelated, that have gaudy or ill-chosen colors and that have ragged pixels where smooth lines should be will inevitably detract from the visitor experience. Take this in to strong consideration when you are ready to update your website.

Working with a Designer

A web designer may very well want to revamp your graphics when you update your website, nearly from scratch. They may want to put bitmap graphics into a format called scalable vector graphics, which allow the graphical elements of your website to be enlarged or reduced in size without any loss of quality. It's hard to convey just how much of an advance in web design capabilities this is. One of the biggest hindrances to getting excellent results that graphic designers faced was the fact that much of their work would end up degrading in quality when it was expanded or reduced into different screen resolutions and screen sizes. Today, the scalable vector graphics offer a good solution for a world where mobile devices are rapidly becoming almost as popular as desktop computers for browsing the Internet.A great deal of your website impact is based on what visitors see. As you update your website, take into account that today's monitors, mobile devices and other screens allow visitors to see a whole lot more than they used to be able to.

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Update Your Website : How Old Web Design Harms Your Business

Poor website design can make your website look outdated. There are very real consequences to this. For example, if a customer has the option of shopping on your website or a website that looks much more current, it's likely that they're going to pick the current site. Here are some ways that web design can make your company look as outdated as your website and the importance of refreshing your design as you update your website.

Security Issues

Everybody who uses the Internet understands that security is a major issue. When your website looks outdated, it's a natural conclusion for people that your security is probably outdated, as well. If they're asked to enter their credit card number on a page that looks like it was designed in 1997, they'll likely have some justifiable hesitation. This why it's important to update your website with a fresh design.Keeping your site fresh looking gives the impression that your company spends a lot of time developing and redeveloping what they put on the web. If you have a well-designed, modern site, it's a lot easier for people to have confidence in it. Keep this in mind when you are ready to update your website.

Never Updated

Websites that look like they have never been updated make it look like the company may well be out of business. If they don't give that impression directly, there's still a good chance that they give the impression that your company is probably one person working out of a basement or something similar. Keeping your site fresh with a new design as you update your website ensures that people know that your website is, in fact, updated regularly and that your business is very much alive. Having an outdated website makes your business look like it failed a long time ago and that it might not be the most reliable choice to do business with.

No One There

Outdated websites also make it look like a company may be a truly fly-by-night affair. Most companies these days spend a lot of time keeping their websites up to date. If you have an outdated website, it looks like you're not even taking care of this, very basic, requirement of doing business in the 21st century. This is the last impression that you want to make with customers.Outdated websites, make no mistake about it, make your business look bad. You don't have to put out the cash to have a huge website built or to update your website effectively. Simply having a web designer make a few improvements here and there and bring your site up to more modern standards can go a long way toward making the right impression on customers.

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Update Your Website : Implementing Changes That Help Fight Spam

Spam is one of the greatest threats to your website. Luckily, there are strategies you can employ to help fight spam as you update your website. Today, there are more types of spam than there were in the past. In the past, the term referred specifically to unsolicited commercial e-mails, but today it refers to blog posts that are designed to advertise something rather than to inform or entertain, pages that provide links to sites that have no value to the person clicking them and to other online scams that trick people into clicking on something that is malicious, deceptive or otherwise undesirable.Fighting against spam oftentimes employs technological and human solutions. Here are some basics that you should understand.

Form Spam

Sometimes, spammers will use web forms as ways to propagate their schemes. The best way to fight against this as you update your website is by using what's called a captcha. A captcha is something you've probably seen before. It consists of an image that contains text that the bots that spammers use cannot read. In order to submit a form, the user has to fill in a field that verifies that they're human beings by proving that they can read the letters in the captcha. A website designer can implement these on your site very easily as you update your website.

Forum/Blog Spam

Spamming forums and blogs is one of the most established ways that spammers go about their business. The way it works is that they will post a reply to something posted on the blog or forum and fill that reply with links to sites that they make money off of or thinly concealed advertisements for products. Sometimes, the links will go to sites that present a genuine hazard to the people who visit them. It's important to control this.Depending on what type of blogging technology you use, your website designer will be able to install automatic systems that look for spam and eliminate it when they find it as you update your website. These, however, are only part of the solution. The other part of the solution is human control over what goes up on the blog. Having posts reviewed and replies reviewed before they go online is the best solution to this. Your website designer can set you up with a system that makes it easy enough to do.If your website gets a reputation as a place where people are at risk due to spam, they're going to quit showing up to it. It might be because of irritation or a legitimate concern for their safety. As a website owner, you should take advantage of any technological and procedural methods of controlling and eliminating spam and employ these when you update your website.

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