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Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, Second Edition by Peter Morville, Louis Rosenfeld

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Chapter 6. Labeling Systems

Labeling is a form of representation. Just as we use spoken words to represent concepts and 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, often including a contact name, an address, and telephone, fax, and email information. You cannot present all this information quickly and effectively on an already crowded web page without overwhelming impatient users who might not actually need that information. Instead, a label like “Contact Us” works as a shortcut that triggers 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 to 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, hardly anyone ever talks about labeling (aside from a few deranged librarians, linguists, journalists, and, increasingly, information architects), but everyone can do something about it. In fact, we are doing something about it, albeit unconsciously: anyone developing content or an architecture for a web site is creating labels without even realizing it. And our label creation goes far beyond our web sites; ever since Adam named the animals, labeling has been one of the things that make us human. Spoken language is essentially ...

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