Creating a product taxonomy to alleviate confusion and improve customer experience.

Building a product taxonomy

Case Study

Product Audit

Identified Challenge Faced by customers
and team members

Stakeholder interviews provided qualitative data
around the issue

Product taxonomy introduced


To the naming conventions

When it came to naming their products, there was no obvious rhyme or reason to the conventions used by National Instruments (NI). Not only did this cause headaches for customers searching their website, but it was frustrating for internal team members as well.

In order to help alleviate friction in naming and marketing key offerings, Centerline partnered with National Instruments to create a consumer-facing product taxonomy to enable better understanding of production definitions and value propositions.

“By introducing logic to the naming process, the names actually mean something,” said Greg Harbinson, Strategy Director at Centerline. “A logic was developed where it was platform first, then measurement type, then finally module or device. As an added bonus, the products themselves are actually categories of potentially hundreds of purchasable items. The product portfolio is much more organized, creating incredibly empowering experiences for both new and returning customers.”

Researching & planning

In order to define the project and create overall objectives, we familiarized ourselves with the company, customers, processes, and product lines. A formal and complete product audit allowed us to outline relationships between products, note terminology and naming schematics, and recognize overlap in product line.


Our product audit made it clear that the root of our challenge was a proliferation of products and terminology that had grown to be overwhelming for both customers and NI team members.

“There was no logic in the product name,” said Harbinson. “Essentially, NI was forcing customers to not only understand the structure of their business, but also the different product segments, usages, and the various arbitrary product numbers to match. It was placing a tremendous burden on the customers.”

Stakeholder interviews

Looking to provide more clarity to the product naming process, we went to NI’s headquarters in Austin and interviewed 22 stakeholders from four main groups: product engineers, sales team members, marketing team members and business partners.

Our goal?

To strengthen and refine the insights revealed through our research with direct feedback from NI team members.

During the interviews, we learned about the process in place for developing, sorting, and naming new technology. We also assessed personal and organizational needs for development of a product taxonomy, and gathered personal insights from stakeholders about their perspectives on obstacles and opportunities.

Stakeholder interviews

Finally, we collected intelligence about key influencers and customer groups affecting, and being affected by, the process.

We delivered a summary of the major recurring themes and observations, along with hard-hitting qualitative data, and defined what a successful taxonomy would achieve based on our insights.

Analysis & recommendations

After research and interviews, we juxtaposed the excessive choices and confusion in the “wide and shallow” product menu being presented to NI customers with a consolidated “narrow but deep” menu that proposed fewer, targeted starting places for purchasing a solution.

Interview insights

We also mapped relationships and redundancies in terminology used to describe products and solutions, and chiseled away the overlapping vocabulary to reveal a concise, intuitive set of terms to describe products to the market.These comparisons revealed opportunities for simplicity and consolidation that would eliminate friction in the buying and selling process and provide a clear path from current to goal state.

Product taxonomy

All of this research culminated in a forward-thinking product taxonomy that would serve National Instruments’ customers as well as their internal team. The logic also helped National Instruments’ Alliance Partners and internal sales team become more knowledgeable of and familiar with the entire NI product portfolio.

The product taxonomy eliminates confusion and intimidation up front by reducing entry points to products while targeting major customer segments. It also supports a newly defined internal process for creating, naming and sorting new technology and provides a scalable infrastructure that can accommodate new additions over time.