If you create a folder, please populate it

I have certain expectations when it comes to taxonomies, both from the user point of view, and from the creator standpoint. One of the most basic rules is this: if you create a folder, populate it. Do not leave a folder empty.

Nothing is more irritating than to browse or drill through a taxonomy that looks really rich and promising, only to discover that the folders have nothing in them. When this happens, I become disappointed and annoyed. And I also start to lose faith in the information architecture as a whole. I guess I’m sort of unforgiving where taxonomies are concerned.

When I’m building a taxonomy, I will leave a folder empty if I’m waiting for someone to provide me with the content that will be stored in that spot. But what I do in this situation is to name the folder something like: “Currently empty; awaiting content.” That way, when the end user or the information architect sees the folder, they know by looking at the name that it is empty. No need to click and open it. Once I’ve received the content to be placed in the folder, I give it a meaningful and proper name.

We all know that nature abhors a vacuum. How many times have you seen an empty spot (be it in your kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, office, etc.) quickly be filled with a bunch of junk? It happens all the time. It’s as if an empty space must be filled, and everyone takes it upon him or herself to fill it… usually with stuff they were too busy or too lazy to dispose of in the proper way. That’s what happens when a taxonomy folder is empty. People go crazy and start populating it with outdated, random, useless content. And who wants to be the person who has to sort through this mess? Not me, certainly!

If you intentionally leave folders empty, post a comment and tell me why. 😉

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