Categorize community structure for improved site navigation
January 10, 2013 Leave a comment
So, as my team continued our accelerated community 3.0 plans our next obstacle was how to categorize our community structure in order to align with our .com architecture and keep the navigation consistent between the two sites.
We have several issues. One is we have many products that have multiple communities some focused around support, others are beta lab forums, developer forums, education/certification and subject matter expert exchanges. We didn’t have to start from scratch as many of the .com categories fit but we released that just organizing the communities into topics didn’t really solve another problem of silo’d information not being discovered in search results. In order to really do this right you need to tag your community content to ensure the meta data is available so content appears in the appropriate search results. There was talk of having a 10 day tag-a-thon and we still may do that but that won’t make the first release so I’ll follow up on that later.
My main concern was still organizing the communities into product/solution categories so the navigation alignment with the .com site would be effective. There were two main tasks we needed to complete before we could integrate the unified web navigation. Determine what the categories would be and then determine which category or categories would be associated with over 200 communities. One of the great things about a community is it is a community which means there are hundreds of others like yourself who want to support your effort to improve the usability of the community. So, the first step was to update our community list, post the spreadsheet to our admin corner and engage our 200 community managers to associate one or more of the 14 categories with their community. Warning, you will have some overachievers who will say their community belongs in all the categories so you will have to edit to keep each community list to at most 3 categories.
While the community managers were updating the categories we needed to create the category landing pages that would be utilized by the navigation. As an example, if a web visitor landing on the .com home page, clicked on the community menu it will open up all the categories available like, storage, security, virtualization, infrastructure or backup and recovery. Because many different communities belong to a single category there needed to be a landing page that would surface all communities that were related. In order to accommodate the tight release timeline we did this manually, but plan to make these pages more dynamic. However, that comes back the tagging discussion I mentioned earlier and something we thought we could deliver in a following release.
The one thing about this exercise was it made us realized the level of effort that would be needed to re-architect the taxonomy and folksonomy of the site. Unfortunately I don’t believe there is an easy way to do this other than roll your sleeves up and get to work tagging content and communities. I have wondered though with the improvement of machine learning in search engines will we come to a point when categories, descriptions, tags and meta data won’t matter because all of the content will be indexed and available based on context. I need to do some more research into that concept but wouldn’t that be nice.