Have you ever desperately needed to find a piece of existing content, only to be left spinning in undefined topics, tags, and categories of metadata? You’re not the only one on pins and needles. In order to be successful in a structured environment, you need a predetermined system of classification called a taxonomy.

In this video, Content Rules founder Val Swisher takes us to her thread board and explains how to think about creating a seamless organization that allows you to retrieve exactly what you need without dropping a stitch.

Taxonomy of the Thread Board

A great way to think about taxonomy is through the metaphor of a thread. First, we need to understand what defines taxonomy. Taxonomy is a system for organizing. In the structured authoring world, it consists of metadata and tags. You can think of metadata as categories to organize your content and tags as specific markers placed on that content so that it can be easily retrieved later.

On Val’s thread board, we can create a number of categories. One category we could use to organize the thread is width. Some spools are very narrow, some intermediate width, and some wide. Other thread may be too wide to fit on the board!

Width is only one category in this taxonomy. Another category is height. This thread board has spools that are extra short, short, intermediate, and tall.

Of course, we could also categorize this thread board by color: one area has blues and purples, another warm reds, oranges, and yellows, while a third area is full rainbow. These are specifically defined and user-created categories.

We need to be careful when we assign tags. Sometimes we get carried away and make the tags too narrow. For example, we could have light pink, dark pink, burgundy, and magenta. Those are all separate tags that we would need to keep track of. A better choice might be to use the tag “pink” and all of the version of pink would go into a single category. We could even use “red” to make the category broader.

Another was we can categorize the thread is by what it’s made of: 100% cotton thread, polyester thread, crazy sparkly thread (still polyester), silk thread. Finally, we could categorize the thread by brand.


Similarly, before checking a piece of content in to CMS, you want to make sure it is tagged with all the appropriate tags so that no matter which one someone searches for, they are able to find the content later. That’s the whole purpose!

Here’s an example. Let’s say we have a new spool of thread and we need to tag it before adding it to the thread board. It’s narrow (width), tall (height), purple (color), made of polyester, and it’s made by the brand Gutterman. Now, after checking it in, we will be able to find this spool of thread by using those tags.

Still stuck spinning? Just click here and our senior taxonomists will help you wind your way out of trouble in no time.

Matthew Swisher