Questions as navigation labels

10 Aug 2009 - 6:37am
5 years ago
5 replies
824 reads
Rebecca Whitfield
2009

I am working on a project where the client is fairly prescriptive with
their navigation labels (i.e. they tend to give us pre-defined
sitemaps). We constantly try to challenge their labels, as we
believe they are more organisation-focused than user-focused.
However, in order to do this, we need to have good reasons
(obviously).

A current issue is using questions as navigation labels e.g. How are
cars made?. I think that this adds unnecessary complexity, and feels
awkward. I would rather a label like 'Making cars' or 'How cars
are made'.

Does anyone have any experience or research indicating whether
questions are suitable or not in navigational labels?

Thanks.

Comments

10 Aug 2009 - 7:23am
Uidude
2009

Rebecca,

I think it depends on what kind of page you are having them. You
could use if it is a support/help page.

At first, users should be familiar with the question
(understandability comes first) in order to continue reading the
answer paragraphs. Just for example - in your case, consider users
who do not even know what the word 'cars' are to further read about
how they are made. Rather you could mention it in an informative tone
- simple labels here.

If it is something that users often tend to ask and hear for an
answer type, then it is good to use there. As mentioned before, in a
help and support page. They would not work (again for example) on a
'about' page of a person. Questions would then sound like About
me?, My phone number? My house address? My favourite things?.. etc
would not sound appropriate.

Hope this helps!

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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10 Aug 2009 - 7:49am
William Hudson
2009

Hi, Rebecca.

Jakob says you're only allowed 11 characters<g>. See
http://www.useit.com/alertbox/nanocontent.html

Alternatively, have you thought of card sorting to see what terms users
volunteer for group names? An open card sort on websort.net would be
fairly quick and inexpensive.

Regards,

William Hudson
Syntagm Ltd
Design for Usability
UK 01235-522859
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> -----Original Message-----
> From: new-bounces at ixda.org [mailto:new-bounces at ixda.org] On Behalf Of
> Rebecca Whitfield
> Sent: 10 August 2009 5:37 AM
> To: discuss at ixda.org
> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Questions as navigation labels
...

10 Aug 2009 - 11:45am
Ian Chan
2005

Rebecca,

I'm with you. No need to raise questions with the labels. My approach
to labels is simply maintain consistency across them. you can use all
your labels together to suggest your categorization/taxonomy,
approach, etc. So if nouns, use nouns, if verbs, verbs, phrases, then
phrases. People can get what it is you're doing pretty quickly -- just
be consistent. (Mix things up in sidebars or w/ supplemental nav)

adrian

>
> A current issue is using questions as navigation labels e.g. How are
> cars made?. I think that this adds unnecessary complexity, and feels
> awkward. I would rather a label like 'Making cars' or 'How cars
> are made'.
>
> Does anyone have any experience or research indicating whether
> questions are suitable or not in navigational labels?

10 Aug 2009 - 11:56am
aaron harmon
2009

Reeves and Nass have done some research that shows that people treat
computers as if they were people. If you agree with their research,
then you have to think about what sort of discourse the computer is
having with the person. Using questions as links seems to parrot the
query back to the user, rather than answer their question or lead them
to their goal. At its worst, there the questions that a company prays
people are going to ask, and aren't related to any question a user
actually has.

(BTW - The Reeves and Nass research is in the book The Media
Equation)

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Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=44466

10 Aug 2009 - 1:57pm
stevie black
2009

Usability aside - injecting an understanding of the user's persona and the search engine's algorithmic needs may define the problem better.

"How Are Cars Made" as the initial signpost to the search engines may or may not be enough information nor narrow enough of a silo depending on the bucket of information contained within or the context of the info to the rest of the site.

"How Are Cars Made" doesn't define the user or the information to be found there. "Building Cars" and "Build A Car" share similarities, but it is unlikely any user would expect to find the same information contained within.

Based on what I know (which isn't much) I would rather see something above this element in the hierarchy that was even more global in topic and drive the "How Are Cars Made" NAV and content into a on-page contextual menu that would bunch like-items for the user - giving the user greater confidence that they are where they need to be.

I agree with Aaron that the Reeves and Nass research is compelling - simply aping the search query may be off-putting for the user who doesn't know whether the question will actually be answered.

I would not, however, trust that my intuition on this case is or is not spot-on. I would make some fairly finished looking wireframes and submit them to individuals and ask some personalized survey questions based on different designs in order to gauge whether your particular user groups understand what lies before them and what their responses to the information are.

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