December 19, 2008

Quick & Dirty: Taxonomy & Fried Chicken

Okay, the end of the day is in sight and I'm finally getting around to doing real work. I guess that's what happens when you spend all weekend sleeping. After my "insane-o" week of travel and presenting our proposed FY09 KM strategy I'm finally rested and had my first taste of really being awake in weeks, but now I'm tired from too much sleep - go figure.

So, before I haul ass and close up shop, I figured I could eek out another belated post. I've been working on our proposed Portal Taxonomy for weeks now and, after years of doing this stuff, even though the process is no longer confusing to me, it's always a task to sift through an organization's content and come up with a way of cataloguing it in accordance with the way member's of that organization think...even when you've got Brandy croonin' Right Here in your ear.

Anywho, two weeks ago I was making my way down to Hotlanta and, as usual, stopped off to get some chicken strips for the trip. (BTW, I know this economy is tight, but since when does Church's charge Popeye's prices?!?!?!...don't get it twisted, I love 'em both, but everybody knows Church's sells that "pumped up", "Durty South" chicken. I mean, eight pieces of Church's chicken does not make a whole bird, if you catch my drift. In college I could live off of a box of Church's chicken for a week because it was so cheap (and rightly so) and now they think they deserve an upgrade?!?!?! Whatev Beyoncé!).

So, I'm at Popeye's for this trip and one of my biggest pet peeves (at almost all fast food joints) these days is the organization of the menu. It's just a mess to figure out especially if you don't want a value-combo-meal-thingamajiggie. Then it hits me that this is clearly a taxonomy problem!

If you've been to a fast food joint in the US lately, you may have noticed that the menu has increasingly moved towards a layout designed to encourage customers to buy more Combo Meals. As a consumer it is annoying, not just because I don't want to have to buy a combo when all I might want is an a la carte item for which the price and quanitity is not readily viewable (and at some places the combos and all the extra grease, fat, and sugar contributing to America's obesity, diabetes, and ADHD epidemics is even MORE expensive than buying a la carte), but also because it gives the impression that what I see are the only choices available which means I have to spend an inordinate amount of time interviewing the person at the register who, more often than not doesn't know any more than I do (maybe even less) and I end up choosing between buying something I don't really want or going somewhere else to eat. (Which, I know, is clearly not a bad idea anyway, but its kinda my mantra that you're not really American if you're not in debt, overweight, and watch too much TV, so I'm just putting my nationalism on display!)

Putting my national (and frustration) to the left for a second, it occurred to me that this is part of the challenge that most folks creating taxonomy schemas have to deal with, synthesizing the "push" of information with a more "intuitive" schema that reflects how your target audience might actually look for information.

In the schema that I recently proposed, we took the approach of creating a flash-driven interface at the center of the page that "pushes" news alerts and critical content with a series of tabs in the bottom half of the page where content has been "bucketed" according to how users might initially seek out content (which also means placing duplicate links in several "buckets"...we'll count click-throughs later to see which are irrelevant). In this way, we're able reconcile the push and pull of information in a way that doesn't alienate anyone, not unlike Wendy's who, actually, does a pretty decent job with their menu. Thus, our customers don't have to spend precious time digging for the information for which they are looking and the KM team is able to minimize the number of potential users that we'll lose (and later have to suck up to in order to get them to give the system another chance).

Now if we can just get my two fave fried chicken houses straight - 'cause I really don't care for KFC.

Love, Peace, and Hair grease y'all!