User Experience: Labeling in the Physical and Digital World

Katsunori Okada

In this Chicago Tribune article, there was a Interstate road sign that used to say “I-355, Tollway, and Suburbs” in the suburb. And now they scratched off the label “Suburbs”. Because they don’t know what else to give drivers a more meaningful and directional word or label. This reminds me of web sites’ menu labeling challenge that many of retail websites faces. For example a menu labeled “Electronics”. This label is used in many retailer’s site and covers wide range of product categories. But the challenge is that is the label “Electronics” enough to tell the customer that it includes Blur-Ray Movies, Video Games, DVD Players and more? Many retail sites think it’s not. Not enough to cover all primary user group’s needs and end up adding independent menu labels “Movies”, or “Video Games” next to “Electronics” in main menu. When I see that, 2 caution flags comes up in my mind.

1. User Path and Content Organization

If the Blue-Ray option was listed on both “Electronics” and “Movies”, the Blue-Ray page will live under which menu?

2. Menu Options are Key

Amazon and Overstock already lists 12 main menu items, Target 15, Walmart 16 and Costco 26 menu items.

These are still caution and usually you can work it out internally. But having many menu items in same type face and color scheme would easily become a user experience headache. I think the retail websites can use a little more descriptive labels than simple noun label. It could be a noun with descriptor or combined keywords.

As for the Interstate sign, simple directional label works in the limited time reading. Maybe “Suburbs” was too simple. My solution will be “More Suburbs”.


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