Schedule Time & Gather Materials
- Time Needed: 4 – 6 Weeks
- Spreadsheet software
Carry Out This Method
Review existing company products; document labels and terminology in a spreadsheet. Then, do the same for competitive products. In most cases, conforming to industry terminology is preferred so users can comfortably predict content and functionality.
Review your site’s search logs. Record the terms users have searched for when attempting to access a specific type of content, and map those terms to the relevant vocabulary currently in use within your existing product.
Interview users and customer service personnel to document terms used by users. If this is an internal product, interview users in every department and, if possible and applicable, every location.
Map these terms to the other spreadsheet terms.
- Decide if your Controlled Vocabulary will contain nouns, verbs and adjectives. For example, the names of products (“Raid Flying Insect Spray’), what the products do (“kill wasps”) and how the products are described by users (“stinging bug spray”). Map these terms to the other spreadsheet terms, where applicable.
- Decide which terms will have spelling variations and misspellings (“Coke”, “Cola”, “Coola”). Map these terms to the other spreadsheet terms.
- Decide which terms need singular and plural variants (“robot”, “robots”). Some search engines have this setting.
- Decide which terms require abbreviations and acronyms (“Tex”, “Lone Star State”, “Tejas”). Map these terms to the other spreadsheet terms.
- Decide which terms have multiple meanings and may need multiple entries. You will need to ask the user to choose which term they are searching for.
- Ask stakeholders and users to review the spreadsheet.
Try These Tips
- Ask if the product needs search before undertaking the creation of a Controlled Vocabulary. (Not every product needs one, especially if there is no commitment to maintain it.)
- Ask who will maintain the Controlled Vocabulary.
- Don’t minimize the effort to create a Controlled Vocabulary.
- Taxonomies may be available for your domain or industry from third parties.
Explore More Resources
- Hedden Information Management: Taxonomies, Thesauri, and Controlled Vocabularies
- Wikipedia: Controlled Vocabulary
- Boxes and Arrows: Creating a Controlled Vocabulary
- Boxes and Arrows: What is a Controlled Vocabulary?
- Cyber Text Consulting: Consistency: Pick one. Stick with it.
- nForm: Controlled Vocabulary
- Usability First: controlled vocabulary system
- NISO: Guidelines for the Construction, Format, and Management of Monolingual Controlled Vocabularies
- Taxonomy Warehouse: Everything You Need to Know about Taxonomy in One Place
- Design and Usability of Digital Libraries book: “…documents are manually indexed using a predetermined vocabulary and queries from users are using terms drawn from the same vocabulary.”
- Design, User Experience, and Usability book: “restricted systems of textual tags… normally applied for large datasets.”