Information architecture: OrkidéPrat

Part 2 of 6 in the series Some of my skills.

Cattleya illustration

By applying two taxonomies to a folksonomy, I help orchid aficionados with their hobby.

An early foray into the design discipline was my work on the content system for OrkidéPrat.se. OrkidéPrat (“orchid talk”) is a community site for Scandinavian orchid lovers which I founded in 2007. To help members find relevant information on the site I organized content in several ways – chronologically, by content type, by author, etc.

The opportunity

Different orchids require different care. Orchid growers therefore often want help for specific plants. However, they also want info about buying and selling plants, how to arrange pots in their windows, how to repot, and such.

I wanted to help OrkidéPrat’s members find answers to their questions among the material that is already on the site so I made it possible to add tags to posts and images, i.e. I let the members create a folksonomy.

I then wanted to create groups – taxonomies – of these tags.

The first taxonomy: by Linneaus

For the care of specific genera and species the taxonomy was obvious – a generic plant taxonomy was created by Carl Linnaeus 300 years ago.

The second taxonomy: by orchid growers

However, for the remaining knowledge there was no obvious taxonomy so I set out to create one.

My main method was card sorting. I started by finding lots of possible tags/areas from orchid books and web sites. I then met orchid growers – in person and over Skype – and asked them to group the cards and give each group a name. After a few sessions clear patterns emerged and a taxonomy came in to being.

1 thing I learnt

We should understand and use our users’ mental models when organizing content. They have all the answers – but we need to know how to ask and listen. Bonus thing: The polar bear book is great!

Information Architecture: OrkidéPrat
Sketch for a coming update to OrkidéPrat’s visual appearance. This post has tags (“nyckelord”) in both taxonomies: Dendrobium Hibiki is a type of orchid (the Linnaeus taxonomy), Röllke Orchideen is an orchid seller (one branch of the custom taxonomy).

The site now has 300 000 pieces of content and almost all of them fit into either of the two taxonomies.