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Talking tagging taxonomies with Jules Lipman

26 August 2021
Liz RossJules Lipman

Jules is a Product Designer at SafetyCulture, and we drilled down on her practice with a couple of questions relating to tagging and taxonomies.

In this session, we’ll be chatting to Jules about:

  1. How she tags her data and how she approaches a taxonomy

  2. How she builds out her existing taxonomy when introducing new data

  3. How she uses workspace tags to give her a holistic view of the data

  4. How she approaches tagging the same data with multiple tags

  5. How she and her team use fields

  6. Her advice for people starting out with their own taxonomy

Looking for something to read? You’re in luck—check out these key quotes:

Approach to tagging

For me, tagging is just affinity mapping and finding the best way to bring different thoughts together to see the united threads. I want to identify trends in the information to help our team better understand the core themes from the research. My approach is as follows:

  1. It’s helpful to have groupings of the themes I want to look for as columns within Dovetail. It might be metrics or something about collaboration, for example

  2. I do the research, upload the video, get the transcript, and I’ll start tagging things

  3. I’ll use a long name at first. I might start by highlighting a sentence and creating a tag as long as: Customers are contacting many other people in the course of them completing this task

  4. As I go through other interviews and repeatedly see the same thing, I might summarize the point into a statement about collaboration

  5. I might end up with a number of these different extended tag names about various aspects I’ve noticed. Then I’ll go back to my taxonomy and see what I can merge

Using this approach, tags will be generated through different projects because I’m constantly adding new tags as needed.

Project structure

Each folder essentially represents a feature, and then all the projects within that folder are independent pieces of conducted research. Let’s say there’s a piece of research where we did one-on-one interviews, another where we did user testing, and another where we did a card sorting exercise. We’ll separate all of these pieces of research so it’s clear why we conducted the research and what the outcomes were.

We use a title page or readme within a Dovetail project to summarize what the research was about. We might include the recruitment email that we sent or leave a comment about the customers we contacted. It helps the people looking back on the research, people shuffling teams or new people who join the team to have better context for why we conducted the research and what we got out of it.

Workspace tags

We generally use workspace tags across all our research because the themes around the research are often the same. You’re still trying to learn out about a particular feature, and the core aspects of that feature don’t change. Rather than recreating tags every time we run a new usability study linked to existing research, we use workspace tag boards. We’ll add or amend those tag boards as we need them. It’s a consistent flow of gaining and developing an understanding across multiple pieces of research, as opposed to an independent thing that you only do once and won’t come back to.

We get a lot of go-to-market and feature feedback from our frontline teams like support and account executives. We have a separate project where all that information goes, and we’ve enabled the same workspace tag in that project. It means that I can pull together the go-to-market feedback, the survey feedback, the usability testing feedback, and the one-on-one generative study that we did and get a complete picture across all the research.

I can go back to a particular tag, see all the information we have, and avoid any blind spots. Having a consistent tag ensures that I’m collectively analyzing the information when making a decision or informing a design.

Tagging the same data with multiple tags

It’s naive to think that there’s a black and white around what somebody says. People are complex, and even within a sentence, they can touch on a variety of themes. I’m not concerned about using multiple tags on the same thing; I’ll highlight numerous themes equally. There are many ways to cut and slice your qualitative information, and you must have the flexibility in your system to do that.

Multiple tagging is crucial to help you understand all facets of the data. Without that ability, I’d have to sit there and say, I want to tag it about alerts, and I want to tag it about temperature, but now I have to pick one. If I ever go back to try and look at the other thing, I can’t find it because I didn’t tag it that way.

Using fields

Fields are exclusively around searchable content related to the customer interviewed, including name, email address, time zone, customer number, their account executive if relevant, stage of the customer lifecycle, or maybe the date and time of the interview as a reference point.

We’re getting information from our go-to-market teams that reference specific customers. We are also conducting one-on-one research or usability studies with those customers. We use fields to search Dovetail and find all the information related to a particular customer, in order to build a full picture.

Jules' advice about creating a tagging taxonomy

  1. The best way to start is to upload your research and start with digital affinity mapping. Just remember, you’re creating tags for things that you and your team find interesting

  2. The value of research is that we don’t know what we’re going to find. We’re trying to establish what was learned from the research and then apply it

  3. You don’t need something structured before starting. If you come in too structured, you’re saying I know what we’re going to learn from this. It’s counterintuitive to think you can have a set of established tags because that indicates that you know what you’re going to find, and that’s seldom the case with research

  4. Don’t overthink it, don’t stress about it, and don’t expect to have all the perfect tag names upfront. Always be open to what you’re learning in a research study and see what groupings naturally come about. That’ll give you the best idea of progressing your research, advancing the design, and securing the best outcome for the customer.

Tagging taxonomies are one of the most discussed topics in Dovetail’s Slack community, you can continue the discussion there with over 2,400 other Dovetailers. If there’s a particular topic you’d love to hear more about, please let us know!

Written by Jules Lipman, Product Designer, SafetyCulture and Liz Ross, Content Lead, Dovetail.

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