Our Work

Discovering Association Management through Taxonomy

American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)

Dovecot has been instrumental in helping us imagine and develop the information infrastructure that positions us well now and for the future.

Reggie HenryCIO at ASAE

We love working with associations.
Small teams of really passionate people and niche subjects… what’s not to love?

Imagine how excited we were when we had the chance to work with the “association of associations”, the American Society of Association Executives (better known as ASAE). ASAE produces a ton of content for association managers and executives, helping them learn about governance, marketing – pretty much anything they need to be successful leaders.

Reggie Henry, ASAE’s CIO, had a different challenge for us than usual. Already taxonomy super-fans, ASAE had created a taxonomy a few years ago and integrated it with their CMS and search, using it to tag and filter content. They were even trying to use it to dynamically publish content to the web (high five)! The problem here was not a lack of taxonomy, but rather an overly complex and unintuitive taxonomy that nobody liked using.

In talking with staff, we heard equal complaints of “it’s too granular” and “it’s not specific enough”, and users? Well, they just ignored it altogether. Clearly, something was amiss with this taxonomy and we were called in to fix it.

Our approach:

When faced with the problem of an unintuitive taxonomy, first order of business is to find out what IS intuitive. We needed to get familiar with how ASAE’s users thought about their domain.

We asked volunteers to do some live and online card sorting, grouping important association management concepts and labeling them. This gave us great insight as to how association managers organize their discipline.

Armed with lots of great user data, we worked closely with the ASAE team to develop a taxonomy that would be easy for both staff and users to navigate.

To make life easier for those who wanted a simple structure that wouldn’t overwhelm, we created an elegant two level taxonomy that captured the essentials of association management subject matter. For those who needed more detail, we devised a set of free-floating managed keywords that could be mixed-and-matched with subjects for added granularity.

To make sure we had gotten things right, we went back to those volunteers and had them test out the new taxonomy. We got some great comments:

  • “I found the vast majority of info exactly where I’d expect it.”
  • “I thought it was pretty easy to use actually. Many of the paths were very intuitive.”
  • “Thanks – this is difficult work and your emphasis on user centered design is to be applauded. Thank you for all you do”

What exciting responses! We did learn a few things to improve as well, and a few tweaks later we had a taxonomy to be proud of.

The reveal:

ASAE has grand plans for their new taxonomy. Reggie and his IT team are in the midst of retagging all their content and will be launching taxonomy-driven personalization to help members filter content based on their interests. ASAE is also using taxonomy to create better business intelligence about their members so they can better target new content offerings.

Soon, you’ll be able to see the taxonomy in the ASAE website, as their faceted search gets updated and we see the new structure in action.

Looking forward to it, and we’ll keep you posted too.

Related services:

Taxonomy Design
  • ASAE-Testing
  • Pietree-ASAE-testing1.png
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