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Website Taxonomy and Classification in DotNetNuke (DNN) - Taking the First Steps

Blog post about PackFlash's perspective and definitions for classification systems that can be used for a DotNetNuke (DNN) website. The post includes examples and ideas of how to use the concepts. 
Administrating a taxonomy, or the process of organizing and classifying content on a website, is an inherently complex topic.  There are no obvious rules to follow and every business has data that both looks and acts differently.  The use of this data is unique to the needs and requirements of the organization.

Having proper taxonomy allows the website to have different methods of navigating – by interest and needs, it allows for creating relationships between items to allow for additional content discovery, and allows for context specific search results.  For instance, when done correctly a sports section of a website that has sports videos can co-exist with some of the same content that is presented differently than the video section of the site.  In addition, the search for resources could include all content in one section, but only focus on blog posts within the blog section of the site.

Early on in its life, PackFlash had to take on a position related to how to organize data within the website that the PackFlash modules operate.  These positions are more guidelines and recommendations than requirements, however, since the PackFlash modules are only a portion of the functionality of a typical website.  In other words, PackFlash is typically a small piece of a much larger picture.  This has changed over time as PackFlash has added more and more functionality and extended into new areas, however.

Below is the description of when to use each one of the components within the DotNetNuke website that is making use PackFlash modules.  This is only one part of the overall information architecture discussion. Navigation and layout, for instance, will not be provided in this post.

Content Types

Content types explicitly describe the items that are assigned to them, but not the structure.  A way of thinking about a content type is to use the words “this is a ______________”.  If you can use these words to describe an item, then the “blank” is probably a content type. This means that content items can only be assigned to one content type (or content items can have only one content type).  Content types currently have no hierarchy, except for the module that they are tied to (the module itself is technically a parent content type). Content types are not shared across modules.

Examples of content types by module:
  • News Module – press release, news, blog, whitepaper, case study
  • Events Module – seminar, workshop, training, concert, webinar
  • Video Module – video tutorial, documentary, webcast, podcast
  • Gallery Module – office pictures, team portfolio, product gallery

If you use the rule “this is a __________”, you will see that all of the items above fit this criteria and only this criteria (although in some cases plurals are used).

Content Items

Content items are the base pieces of data in the PackFlash system.     For example, when talking about a PR effort for the launch of a new product line, the following might be used – “this is a press release ”(where press release is the content type).   A content item can only be assigned to one content type.  It therefore, defines what it is and can have default behaviors based on the content type (all blog posts are set to display on X page and have a consistent template determining their look and feel, for instance).

Examples of content items:
  • The History of The Spotted Owl (Blog Post on Birds – News Module)
  • Wine Tasting Through the Ages (Documentary Video on Wine – Video Module)
  • SEO: Just the Facts (Webinar on Internet Marketing – Events Module)
  • DotNetNuke World 2011 Booth Images (Images on  – Gallery Module)


Categories are a hierarchical parent-child structure that provides a way to organize the data.  Following the same logic from above, the way of thinking about categories is that they describe what the content item is about.  Or using the same methodology, using “This item is about ______”, where the “blank” is the category. Also, notice that trying to use a category as a content type or in reverse doesn’t work. The blog post “The history of the Spotted Owl” is about birds (category), but is not a bird (content type).

The PackFlash system allows for infinite categories and children, but realistically, any system with more than 5 levels has a possibility of becoming cumbersome or unwieldy.  Multiple categories can be assigned to a content item.  Categories are shared across modules and therefore best used as high-level concepts that could apply to any content item.  Categories need to be added to the keywords to show up in a text search for the content item.

Examples of categories:  sports, technology, history, manufacturing, music, architecture


Tags are a set of topics or adjectives that are loosely tied to the content item that is being tagged.  They are typically more general concepts than categories.  There is no hierarchy to tagging.  It is common to make tags more adjective-based as a way to describe something rather than classification system.  Tags are shared across modules.  Tags can be used to find specific items within text searches directly – a text search provides a direct result.

Examples of tags:  fun, quirky, loud, trendy, classic


Assigning a person relationship establishes that the person was involved with the content item in some way.  Multiple people can be assigned to each content item and people can be assigned to multiple content items.  The relationship of the person to the content item can be different than it was than with the other content items – a person can be a speaker for one event, an author for a blog post, and a photographer of a gallery.    An administrator can decide to share people across module or have them only available within a specific module.

Examples of people by module:
  • News Module – author, contributor, illustrator, photographer
  • Events Module – speaker, organizer, coordinator, sponsor
  • Video Module – creator, owner, director
  • Gallery Module – photographer, owner, tagged person


Groups provide a separate type of classification that is designed to be more time-based or publication-based.  This means that it grouping allows for publishing and un-publishing all of the content items assigned to a group at the same time.  The publication of the group determines the publication of the items within it.  Content items can belong to more than one group, but only one group can determine its publication schedule.    Typically the content items within the group are meant to be consumed together (potentially in one sitting).  Groups are not shared across content types.  The content items of a group will all have a tight relationship to each other based on the group itself.

Examples of groups by module:
  • News Module – Horiculture Magazine: December 2011 Issue
  • Events Module – Detroit Car Show May 2011
  • Video Module – Webcast Series: Internet Marketing
  • Gallery Module – 2011 Thailand Family Vacation

Comments (1)

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9/9/2013 1:34 PM
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