Future-Proof Your Keywording System

Creating your own keywording system can be a challenging and rewarding experience, but before beginning you need to have the right goals in mind.

Most importantly, you must make sure that your system will stand the test of time. There are no prizes for creating a fantastic system if it can't be updated and operated by staff with no previous training five years from launch.

We occasionally run into such systems which were the brainchild of one talented person, but hardly anyone else can operate it, or fully understands its guiding principles. Heaven knows what happens when that talented person leaves, but it won't be pretty.

By the same token, we've come across inputting systems which are written in such a way that it is impossible to keyword at anything more than a snail's pace because the design of the vocabularly has dominated over the design of systems for adding keywords or altering that vocabulary.

To avoid these sorts of problems, we suggest you follow these rules:

1. Require documentation of the system with easy-to-understand manuals from day one. Don't wait for the launch of the system before thinking about it. You may well find that the person who wrote the system can't write a manual, or more likely doesn't have time to because they are busy teaching people how to use the new system (without a manual), troubleshooting, answering questions, making improvements and so on.

2. Keep the keyword inputting as flexible as possible so that your web site or special software is not required. The easiest way to achieve this is for the keywording to be done at image level, or by the importation of keywords from a spreadsheet. That way if you need to outsource the work you will be able to do so easily. If you decide to use a controlled vocabulary, make that as portable as possible so that other people can set up the same structure on their systems.

3. Keep your controlled vocabulary intuitive and avoid overly-complicated structures which will make inputting difficult and make the sturcture even more difficult to change. If you are a company with limited resources, buy a vocabulary off the internet or use just a few keywording rules to guide your inputting and avoid a controlled vocabulary completely.

4. Before you start, get as much information as you can about how long the project will take. Calculate the cost, then double it. If it still makes economic sense then proceed.