Tags – You’re It

No matter how good your UX is, once your content or data reaches a certain critical mass, you will have to contend with the need to develop search functions. It’s funny what a stumbling block the mere issue can become, never mind undertaking the actual work. You’re leery of over-categorizing because you don’t want to circumscribe your potential. The fear is that well-defined buckets are an admission that your organization is limited in its capabilities, or that you will shut out some customers for the benefit of others.

Google has spoiled us by making search look so easy. But we’ve all had the experience of using a website’s native search function, only to get back hundreds if not thousands of useless returns. Unless you have Google money and talent to develop behavioral adaptation, that’s the level of quality you can expect. Someone—man or machine—has to analyze each piece of content beforehand, extract semantic metadata and appropriately identify it.

The option available to most businesses is the human one—tight categorization and taxonomy, tagging and intuitive UX. Non-behavioral full text search, the kind a non-multibillion dollar company can afford—puts onus on users to sift through responses for relevant items. Methodical tagging lifts that burden and (incr)eases engagement.

There’s a kind of suspicion that floats around the human element of this approach. You could theoretically build your tagging taxonomy on the back of Starbucks receipts. That analog simplicity makes it feel, at the visceral level, like a lazy contrivance, or a sign that your strategist might be a technical lightweight.

It may be an analog task, but in this case, leaving search functionality up to a one-size-fits all plugin is the path of least resistance that takes you nowhere. The limited capabilities of full text search (at least the kind you can afford) yield either useless results, or leave out relevant returns that don’t contain the exact terms being searched for. It takes focus, intense scrutiny, discernment and attention span—from your strategy team, your devs and you—to do with tagging and taxonomy what might be performed with rigorous behavioral search algorithms. But it’s the only way to get million-dollar results with thousand-dollar budgets. It can’t be passed off, or thrown into an afternoon of multitasking. Tags, you’re it.


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