Fostering Collaboration in Engineering Teams: How does taxonomy fit into product development?

2024 March 06

Have you ever wondered how Vinted effectively manages the thousands of items uploaded to our platform? For our Ontologies team, it boils down to one crucial element: collaboration. Join us as we sit down with Product Designer Eidvilė Bagdonaitė and Taxonomists Laura Horan and Charlie Lapin to discover how they leverage their unique areas of expertise to co-create a better member experience for all.

About the Ontologies team

Ontology is all about describing items  from defining the category they fit into to details like their size and the materials they're made from. By exhaustively cataloguing each aspect of an item in our database, the Ontologies team helps Vinted members find exactly what they're looking for. 


In other words, the Ontologies team ensures items are discoverable throughout the member journey, including the moment a member uploads an item to Vinted and when they use filters to find the items they need while browsing our platform. "We do this by making sure our platform includes the metadata terms that members use to describe these items." Eidvilė Bagdonaitė says.

The Buyer domain

As part of the Buyer domain, Laura, Charlie, and Eidvilė's work focuses on the initial stages of the buying and selling process. This covers everything from opening the app and listing an item for sale to searching for something to buy. The Buyer domain also includes the stage where members chat about an item or when they make an offer to buy something. The following steps – payment, shipping and feedback – are handled by another branch of the team.

A unique structure

Vinted’s Ontologies team is an Engineering Product team, which means Engineers, Data Analysts, Product Managers, and Product Designers all come together to achieve the same goal.

What makes our Ontology team unique at Vinted is that it also includes Taxonomists. As Laura puts it, "Charlie and I were the first taxonomists at Vinted and the first employees with this background and expertise. Our first order of business was to meet with an array of stakeholders across the matching domain to introduce our skillset and ways we might be able to support their work through improved data modelling."

As taxonomists working with colleagues from many different fields, the team finds it essential to clarify the language they use so they can keep their communication clear. After all, words that mean one thing to Product Designers may mean something else to Taxonomists.

There are many different paths to the role of Taxonomy, including a History, Librarian, Museum Curation or Knowledge Management background. The ideal taxonomist is someone who’s a logical thinker and enjoys creating order from chaos.

How Taxonomy meets Product Design at Vinted

While our taxonomy data model is the backbone of every item on Vinted, having extensive information is only helpful when we can display it to our members. That’s why we've learned it's vital to get Product Design involved as soon as possible, as it's a lot easier to work in tandem before a launch than it is to start the design process after.


So, how do these different approaches come together in the Ontology team’s projects? Eidvilė states, "One of the most straightforward ways we collaborate is by including member insights and perspectives into data structure decisions." This can involve user testing or showcasing how different data structure options influence user flow. Whenever a new approach is suggested, the team discusses how it will change the way Vinted members learn about an item and how this could benefit them. "By anchoring our communication around the user perspective, we're able to find common ground and collaborate towards member-centric experiences", Laura Horan says.


Furthermore, in some scenarios, to address the needs of sellers on Vinted, we may need to present information in a way that’s relevant to them but would require a different level of granularity to be user-friendly for buyers. As Eidvilė puts it, “This nuanced understanding has empowered me to approach my design process with greater depth and to develop more solutions that meet the diverse needs of various member groups”.


Another way the Ontology team collaborates is through the Kanban method. The team uses a virtual Kanban board to keep track of what everyone’s working on and facilitates meetings that foster collaboration and communication. Every day, the team has a 15-minute standup meeting where they update the status of their Kanban board tickets as a team. They also have weekly planning meetings, where they add new items to their Kanban board and host post-launch retrospectives for projects that go live. The Ontology team also uses Slack to discuss work topics and ask questions more freely  sometimes, these can be answered in a simple thread, but the team is always happy to jump on a quick call to explain the details, too. These methods help everyone to stay on the same page.

Achieving results

Although Taxonomy has some Member-facing results (e.g. creating a new category in our taxonomy "tree"), they tend to fall into the existing Product Design framework. "We're not reinventing the wheel when adding a new subcategory under Jackets or Skirts", Charlie says.

But their collaboration truly shines when the Ontology team works on a new concept. Charlie explains: "For example, in our current project we're working on...Taxonomy has a few options to choose from when building a data model, and we would have been stuck, but product design helped us settle on the best choice, and now we're actively working on implementing it for our members!"

Sometimes, the taxonomy design options are limited by the current systems or product designs in place. By collaborating with a Product Designer, the Ontology team can identify opportunities for product design improvements, which enables us to create better data models that enhance the member experience. Eidvilė elaborates: "Like Charlie, I've realised that taxonomy and product design go hand-in-hand. When we combine our skills – thinking how to organise information with a solid grasp of how members think and manage information, it can help create solutions that make a difference to the user experience."

Find out more  

Are you a logical thinker who excels at bringing order to chaos? Consider joining our Ontology team and collaborating on projects that make a real impact on millions of members. See our open positions here.