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Designing Web Navigation by James Kalbach

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Chapter 5. Labeling Navigation

"If everyone always agreed on what to call things, the user's word would be the designer's word would be the system's word, and what the user typed or pointed to would be mutually understood. Unfortunately, people often disagree on the words they use for things."

George Furnas et al. "The Vocabulary Problem in Human-System Communciation"

Creating the right navigational labels for a web site is often an underestimated part of the design process. "Oh, that's just a labeling problem," some may say, brushing off the decision for "more important" design issues.

From a user's perspective, however, navigation labels are the site's content, functionality, and structure. If navigation has a narrative role for a web site, labels are the words that tell the story.

Critical to findability, navigation labels are the trigger words site visitors look for when they scan navigation options. The words in a label draw a person's attention to the link, or, if the words are uninteresting to them, ignore the link. Navigation labels are also key elements in predicting what's coming next, after the decision is made to click a link. They come immediately before a decisive point in navigation: the transition from one page to another. Getting navigation labels right is vital.

Information often doesn't let itself be chopped up and described neatly, however, and language gets messy, making labeling decisions difficult. This chapter provides insight on taming language and organizing ...

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