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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Knowledge Organization Systems and User Centered Design

What is a Knowledge Organization System (a.k.a. KOS)
Humans are inherent organizers. Form an early age, children play sorting and matching games (CLIR, 2016).
The term knowledge organization systems is intended to encompass all types of schemes for organizing information and promoting knowledge management. Knowledge organization systems include classification schemes that organize materials at a general level (such as books on a shelf), subject headings that provide more detailed access, and authority files that control variant versions of key information (such as geographic names and personal names) (CLIR, 2016)

KOS has two main elements: Terms and (their) Relations (Moncunill, 2016)

What is User Centered Design and Usability Testing
User Centered Design (aka: UCD)  is a methodology to design products and services to assure that they are built meeting the real user (or customer) needs; making the products or services attractive, useful, easy to learn and joyful to use. Also, the products or services are simpler and have a more efficient manufacturing cycle. In sum, a UCD product or service has a higher ROI and a more satisfied customer (Martín Moncunill, 2015)

On the other hand, Usability Testing is the process to assure that a product is developed using the UCD methodology. The main steps of the Usability Techniques are:
Context Analysis, Requisites Specification, Product Design Solutions and Evaluation.
It is crucial that user inputs are gathered, for that, a thorough Cognitive Walk process is followed with the users to understand customer needs and requirements and a Testing Steps are design ahead with these steps: planning testing, define user profiles, environment prep, conduct testing, analyse the data and produce the outcomes accordingly.

UCD and Usability Testing are very oftenly used in creating new products in startup and fast growing companies, embedded in the Lean Startup methodology (Ries, 2011), following the very frequent interactive loop of Build-Measure-Learn with Consumers.

Scenarios to build a KOS using UCD and Usability Testing
We can face two types of scenarios: or either the KOS is already in place and we have to redesign it using UCD and Usability Testing or we need to build a KOS “from scratch”.

When we need to improve an existing KOS, we need to follow process of: Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control using the UCD and Usability Testing phasing. For example in the user cases described in (Moncunill, 2016), the author guides us through some user cases like this: AGROVOC or AGRIS. Concussions out of that research led to focus in three main areas (that made a key usability areas of focus), attending to the KOS=Terms+Relationship foundation: Visualization, KOS Keywords and KOS Domain Specificity. In all these cases we can see a labour intensive Measure phase: Quantitative and Qualitative analysis. As well as reaching the proper conclusions and next steps.  
If we wanted to improve an existing KOS, the steps described above would the most appropriate. From the conclusions starting point, we will Improve the existing KOS using the UCD design, prioritizing in capturing Voice of the User and focus in the real key to success items that they will provide us through the Usability Testing technique (described earlier).

UCD and Usability Testing are very effective methodologies to improve or build new products and services aligned with customer needs. In addition, I would recommend to use Lean Startup Methodology to assure a more agile development and interaction with the voice of the customer.


CLIR, C. (2016). 1. Knowledge Organization Systems: An Overview — Council on Library and Information Resources. Retrieved 6 April 2016, from

Martín Moncunill, D. (2015). Introduction to Usability & UCD. [online] YouTube. Available at:  [Accessed 29 Dec. 2015].

Moncunill, D. (2016). User studies on KOS. YouTube. Retrieved 10 April 2016, from

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