I know you had to read that title carefully to get it right. But User Experience Design theory isn’t always simple or easy to read. I for one, am a /UI designer who never went to design school. So design theory and practices always seemed alien to me. But one practice that I can always relate to and feel comfortable using is —  .

It’s defined as separating parts of a list of items into ‘taxons’ which further have parents and below that, children. Taxons can be taken as organised lists of items which in the case of UX, are often contextual in nature.

Let’s quickly understand the concept using The Spoon Problem.

The spoon problem states, that in a kitchen where there are a set of utensils, each utensil is carefully categorised into —

  • Utensils — Knives, forks, spoons
  • Tools — Can openers, spatula, brush
  • Pots — steaming pot, pressure cooker, small pots
  • Storage — Tupperware, bottles

And all this is stored in various containers like —

  • Drawers
  • Cupboards
  • Stand alone

The above containers are the parents of each taxonomy. Below that, there are children and sub children.

What is Hierarchical Taxonomy Good For?

  • A Great Method to Organise Workflow

Having an organised workflow is as important for effective design, as much as design itself. Starting off at the right foot is crucial when it comes to making sure that there are fewer hiccups and stuff is easy to find at a later stage.

You Don’t want to have such a Mess

The above screenshot is from a design I did for a company a while back. All the art-boards are spread out without being separated into a hierarchy or categories. No matter how big your project is going to be, it’s crucial to — label everything properly, create clear and organised lists of items / categories and have fewer things on one page / section as possible.

A perfect example for this would be the Labels my grandma used to put on different spice containers and used to keep everything in different sections of a cupboard.

  • Clients Will Thank You

Since all your files are organised clearly, when you deliver the work to the client, they Will Thank You. An organised workflow and system will help you stay on track and help the client understand your better and faster.

  • Create Clearer Navigation

The Above picture is from the navigation menu of Amazon. Everything has been put into taxonomies and even though there is so many links, a good hierarchy can organise it and make it easy to use. A major difference between a good website / app which is easy to use and an app which isn’t; is a good understanding of hierarchical taxonomy.

  • Prioritization

It’s very important to understand what to put first, and what to put last. A good understanding of hierarchies will enable you to make the right choices with elements, functions, features and more.

Learn About Hierarchical Taxonomy

A great course to follow if you want to learn Content strategy, including hierarchical taxonomy is — UX Foundation course by LinkedIn Learning

UX Foundations: Content Strategy

The best way to learn these concepts is through problems, like the one I’ve referred to above. Reading problems, case studies and books are efficient ways of gaining UX knowledge.

An article I wrote a while back should help you with the reading portion of UX.

The Secret to Great Design — A Good Read


Hierarchical taxonomy: UX design’s secret weapon was originally published in UX Collective on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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