Chapter 5. Labeling Systems

Labeling is a form of representation. Just as we use spoken words to represent thoughts, we use labels to represent larger chunks of information in our web sites. For example, Contact Us is a label that represents a chunk of information, including a contact name, an address, telephone, fax, email information, and maybe more. You cannot present all this information quickly and effectively on an already crowded page without overwhelming impatient users. Instead, we rely upon a label like Contact Us to trigger the right association in the user’s mind without presenting all that stuff prominently. The user can then decide whether to click through or read on and get more contact information. So the goal of a label is to communicate information efficiently; that is, without taking up too much of a page’s vertical space or a user’s cognitive space.

Unlike the weather, no one ever talks about labeling (aside from a few deranged librarians and linguists), but everyone can do something about it. Web site designers and managers create labels for the site without even realizing it. Why? Because labeling is a natural outgrowth of creating organization and navigation systems that sites can’t function without, and because labeling things comes very naturally to humans. It’s too easy not to think about labeling. The point of this chapter is to get you to think about labeling before you dive in.

Pre-recorded or canned communications, including print, the Web, scripted ...

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