Information Architecture – Labeling Systems
To minimize this disconnect, information architects must try their best to design labels that speak the same language as a site’s users while reflecting it’s content. And, just as in dialogue, when there is a question or confusion over a label, there should be clarification and explanation. Labels should educate users about new concepts and help them quickly identify familiar ones.
Why do I have a picture of the comic book guy from the Simpsons holding some type of beverage? Labels. You can decide for yourself what type of drink it is. For argument sakes, let’s call this soda. If we go across the U.S., the same beverage can be called pop. Another variation would be soft drink, soda water, or tonic. Again, based on the region you live in, you can name the same item with a different name and still be correct. Why does this have to do with information architecture?
Based on how one designs a site, putting a label helps the user navigate the site to get or be direct to more information. In this chapter, there was discussion about the U-Haul site. The picture used had 5 main headings and then numerous subheadings for each. The authors question the word Main. They asked, “Main refers to what? Since there were links under the Main subject heading, the links offered more information about rates, locations, a college connection, and hot deals. When I, like most people, think about the word Main, I would refer to it as a Home or Splash page of a website. So in case of I get lost within the site, I would be able to get to the Main page with relative ease with a simple click of a button; that was not the case here. As the authors noted for example the college connection might be referred as some type of corporate speak that makes sense to the corporation and not necessarily the user. Now, in fairness, the site picture was from 2002 and when I went to http://www.uhaul.com/ today many the problems noted have gone away.
Zoom this problem to my library’s website and while it does not have the same awkwardness in wording, there is still a great deal of improvement that can be done. My biggest grief has to do with links. This section has the subject headings above the various databases in two columns. By clicking on one of the headings, you are direct to one of the databases listed below. Provide you are familiar with the database, there is very little explanation as to what this tool can do for you and your needs. When I clicked on Literature, Writers and Books, the first thing under this heading was ebooks – literature. Do patrons know what an ebook is? Just because a patron was able to get to the site and come across this bit of information, they may not truly understand the term or how to use it. I just tried using it and I had struggled to get some use out of it. Again, in fairness, this database is outsource by Gale and while it’s not the fault of the library, the service they are provided does not necessarily match up with the needs or language of their patrons.