SharePoint 2010: Using Taxonomy & Controlled Vocabulary for Content Enrichment

4 minute read
Jeff Carr avatar

The semantic enrichment of content through the application of metadata tagging is a critical activity in the creation of a well managed and usable information environment. SharePoint 2010 brings a number of key features to this domain. Here's the how and why of SharePoint content enrichment.

There are a number of reasons why tagging is so important to enterprise information, including the enhancement of navigation (filtering/sorting mechanisms, guided navigation), improvement of search (relevancy, faceted search and best bets) and personalization (suggestions for related content, job role, location or department).

Tagging in SharePoint 2010 is approached from two perspectives, with the first originating from controlled vocabularies via Metadata Terms. Controlled terms are managed in a Term Set and surfaced as part of a document’s properties using the Managed Metadata column. The field itself is directly bound to a Term Set -- or subset thereof -- and enables users to easily browse available Terms for tagging. Important functionality appearing as part of the user interface includes:

See related article: Overview: SharePoint 2010 Metadata and Taxonomy Management


As characters are entered into the Managed Metadata field, type-ahead functionality offers Term suggestions along with Term Hierarchies to the user. Suggestions originate from the taxonomy and are presented in a flat list.



Hover Tooltip

Defined Term attributes are displayed to the user when the mouse hovers over one of the suggested items.


Hover Tooltip

Attributes for terms displayed include:

Preferred Term -- Identified as the Default Label, this is the preferred word or phrase that should be used for tagging (“Contract Management”).


Preferred Term

Term Hierarchy -- For Managed Terms, the word or phrase location within the hierarchy is also displayed as part of the Term presentation to provide additional insight for the user. Term properties, listed beneath the Member Of label, display all locations where the Term is in use. (“Topic: Administration”).


Term Hierarchy

Description -- A statement intended as a message to taggers that provides instructional text on how the Term should be used. (“Use this tag to identify official documents that are binding legal agreements enforceable in a court of law.”).



Synonyms -- Identification of words, phrases or abbreviations with meaning the same or similar to the preferred term (“Contractual Agreement; Vendor Licensure”). Synonyms are displayed in the hover tooltip, but cannot be selected themselves for tagging.



Learning Opportunities

To the far right of the form field is a tags icon that when selected, displays a popup window containing a hierarchically browsable list of terms that includes the functionality and attributes described above. Depending on the Term Set properties, users can then apply one or more Terms and metadata to an item.


Browsable Terms

Caveat: The ability to search a Term Set for specific words or phrases as part of the tagging interface is not present in SharePoint 2010. For large taxonomies containing hundreds or thousands or terms, it can easily become overwhelming and time consuming to browse through a potentially seven level hierarchy to locate the best Term -- particularly if the user is unfamiliar with the structure and content of the Term Set itself.

Additionally, physical locations that exist within a hierarchy can be configured to automatically apply metadata to content, thus simplifying the user experience by helping to reduce the total number of selections required to be applied by publishers. An example might be to automatically tag all documents produced by a business unit with the name of that business unit.


Default Value

Users also have the ability to offer feedback to Taxonomy Managers on the terminology defined as part of a Term Set. To enable this functionality, the Contact section of the Term Set must be filled out with the e-mail address of the Term Set Manager.


Taxonomy Managers

The feedback function is displayed to end users after selection of the tags icon brings up the full hierarchy in the popup window. At the top of the interface is a section that allows the user to make contact via email during the tagging process.

Clicking on the Send Feedback link opens a new message in the user’s default email program, with the To field addressed to the email address defined and the Subject field containing the text “User Feedback for [Term Set Name] Term Set”.


Send Feedback

This was part one of a series on Taxonomy and Metadata in SharePoint 2010. Additional posts in the series — if you haven't read them — are:

About the author

Jeff Carr

Jeff is an Information Architect and Search Consultant with Earley &Associates specializing in user centered information design. With a strong multi-disciplinary foundation across taxonomy, metadata, information architecture, search marketing and business analysis, he has been involved in the design, development and integration of web-based solutions from intranets and extranets to public facing websites for a variety of large enterprises across a wide range of industries.

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