Website Taxonomy Mistakes That Publishers Make Too Often

Don’t flake on website taxonomy, make a task list and test until every user can complete it

Your website taxonomy is how you speak to those who are looking at your website. Publishers live in a visual world and have a habit of going for over-designed websites that overwhelm users more often than they inform them. If your readers are running in the opposite direction of your sales pages, taxonomy could be the problem.

If you have a high website bounce rate, or are just not seeing the sales you want, then your website taxonomy might not be working for you. Ready to reverse that pony? Then keep on reading and ride these tips into the profitable sunset.

How Publishers Flake on Website Taxonomy

1. Not creating a list of tasks.

Come up with a list of things you want users to be able to complete. For example, in a usability study, you’d want to ask participants to subscribe to your magazine, contact you, and join your email newsletter. If they can’t do at least those three things fairly quickly, your taxonomy is to blame. But, so might your design.

2. Labeling things in hip, quirky ways.

Don’t be cute. Sure, you could label your unsubscribe button as “get me outta here!” but that could mean a million things. Unless they’re hitting a launch button that will project them through the roof and into outer space, don’t title any link that way. Ever.

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3. Not asking anybody first.

When Wistia is referring to an employee who takes a project too far before checking in, they say they the employee is “Forrest Gumping.” Don’t go Forrest Gumping, walk! In other words, don’t take the design of your website so far that your team has no choice but to approve at the last minute because there’s no other option. When developing a website, every voice available should be considered and counted. That’s what makes a great team!

4. Nixing keyword research.

One way to find out what people want is by doing keyword research. For example, if you run a Gardening Website and found that 10,000 people search for Tulip Bulbs, while only 1,000 search for Tulips, you might consider creating a category for Tulip Bulbs. You’ll also find out if web searchers phrase the topics you intend to launch with, a little differently. Keyword research is an eye opening experience when it comes to website taxonomy.

5. Launching without testing.

For goodness sake, don’t launch without conducting a usability test. And if you’ve already launched, it’s never too late (or soon) to conduct one. Use your lists of tasks and assign them to your participants. They’ll tell you exactly how hard or easy each task is, and they can tell you if it’s the design that’s deterring them, or the wording. You’ll want to know which, otherwise you could spend a hefty chunk of change fixing the design of a page, when users just need you to change “order now” on a button to “learn more.”

Have you ever made a total website taxonomy fail? We’d love to hear it in the comments so our readers can learn from it. This is a judgement-free zone, promise!


    I’m slowly learning the vocabulary of subscription website. I kept focusing on wanting to move my fitness and wellness career into a website since 4 or so years ago. But I think for me, websites were still in it’s early stages for me to build what I wanted. I may have limited finances and resources, but I’ve made the conscious decision that the timing is right with the internet, facebook and twitter to make things happen. This article was written at a very good level of understanding for me and is getting me another step closer.

    Thank you


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