A Starter Tags Taxonomy + Tips for Writing Tags

Three example tag categories: Initiatives, Products, and Features

Establishing a tags taxonomy is a great step you can take to make research and insights more discoverable by people in your organization.

What’s a taxonomy?

In its simplest form, a “taxonomy” is just a set of terms used to categorize things. Software developers use taxonomies to help computers read data. What we’re talking about here is helping people find information, using taxonomies to create tags.

We use tags in Handrail to help with three key research processes:

  1. Screening participants
  2. Performing analysis
  3. Curating insights

It’s that last one that we created our starter tags taxonomy for—helping you to organize and curate insights so that they are easy to browse and find by others in your organization.

While taxonomies can get quite complex, with multiple nested layers, we like to keep things simple. We believe simple taxonomies help both the people doing research, who have to decide which tags to apply, and the people consuming research, who have to decide which tags will lead them to relevant information.

In Handrail, you can create top level tag categories and then create tags in each of the categories. Simple!

However, as simple as that might sound, it can still be a bit daunting to get over the hump of establishing your first taxonomy. So, we created a template to get you started.

The Starter Tags Taxonomy

Our starter tags taxonomy provides an initial set of commonly used tag categories. You can build on them to create a custom taxonomy that’s meaningful and specific to your organization. Get your own copy of the starter taxonomy below.

View of Handrail's Starter Tags Taxonomy spreadsheet

Guidelines for writing tags

As a bonus, here are some guidelines to think about as you are collecting, writing, and curating tags for each category. You can also check out our previous blog post containing practical ways to source tags for your taxonomy.

  • Accept that this is subjective. There is no “right” title for a category or individual tag. However, you can do internal testing to determine how useful people in your organization are finding the terms in your taxonomy to be. (Research Ops is always so meta. 😁)
  • Avoid ambiguity. Each tag should be specific enough to be understood clearly in isolation, clearly differentiated from other tags.
  • Avoid being too specific. Each tag should be broad enough to encompass all items that can be meaningfully grouped together.
  • Avoid the junk drawer. If a category starts to have a lot of tags in it relative to other categories, that’s likely an opportunity to split that category up into more specific, more useful categories.
  • Avoid duplication. Find the most representative label for a tag and stick with it. Having everything categorized under a single term avoids having to filter by multiple terms when looking for past research. For common acronyms, where you may be tempted to create separate tags for the acronym and the full version, consider combining them into a single tag, like this: “Business to Business (B2B)”.
  • Use existing terminology. Take advantage of the fact that groups tend to organically develop a vocabulary of their own that is meaningful to members of that group. Make sure those terms are shared widely enough among people accessing your research repository.
  • Remember that tags can be used in combination with each other. Consider how people might be looking for research in your organization. For example, a product manager might be interested to see what other product teams are learning about a particular topic. That person might use a combination of Product tags and Feature tags to pull up all the relevant insights.

We hope you find the starter taxonomy to be useful. If you’d like some help thinking through your own taxonomy, hit us up! We’ll schedule a time to chat. We’re always happy to help people be more successful with Research Ops.

Happy tagging!


Handrail helps teams get organized and succeed with research at scale. To see Handrail for yourself, sign up for a free trial or demo today.

To stay up to date with articles about user research and hear about feature releases, sign up for our newsletter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *