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David Lee King

Labels – Consistency and Context



labelsI’ve been pondering website labels lately… (boy, that David – he’s truly a geek!). No really – we’re going through a major website overhaul right now, and we’re to the point where we’re looking at labels (ie., does “Databases” really mean anything to our visitors?).

And so here are a few real-world examples of labels – or more appropriately, mis-labels.

The first one deals with consistency. I recently stayed at this hotel in New York City. It was a fine hotel, but I haven’t any idea what the name of the hotel actually is. Why? Take a look at all the names of this hotel:

  • Jolly Hotel Madison Towers
  • Madison Towers Hotel
  • Jolly Hotels
  • Jolly Madison Towers Hotel
  • Jolly Master Hotel
  • and … jollymadison.com !

labelsThe hotel has at least six different names! They need a little consistency, don’t you think? And, web people, we can use this lesson to make sure we are consistent in our naming and labeling schemes, too. Make sure you keep html titles, link labels, headings, etc. consistent across your website, on printed things, in articles and even in press releases. The goal is to have all labels match so there’s no confusion.

i hit thingsAnd now for context. OK – I bought this way cool t-shirt recently, at vinniecolaiuta.com (he’s an amazing drummer – think Sting, Frank Zappa, etc). So I’m at this drummer’s site, I see this shirt that reads “I hit things” and immediately think what any other drummer would think – “that’s cool!” and I bought it.

But now, having worn it out a few times … when I walk down the street, people stare at me, and give me a wide birth. When I’m at a store, they either say “don’t hit me” sort of sheepishly, or they ask “what do you hit?”

The problem? I don’t hit things! (well, other than drums). I’m a fairly gentle person when it comes to the propensity to want to hit things – I dont’ go around starting brawls, anyway! 

So, I have labeled myself out of context. If I wore this shirt while drumming, it’d make perfect sense. Or maybe if I was a mean lookin’, tattoo-sportin’, hairy guy… But when I wear this at the grocery store, it doesn’t fit my personality very well (well, other than my extremely sarcastic, I think it’s funny ’cause no one else gets it bent).

Lesson #2: On our websites, we need to label things in context. Some of that has to do with jargon. My t-shirt uses drummer jargon that no one else understands … our library websites use jargon, too. Instead of using jargon, make sure to tag your services appropriately for your audience and for the content and purpose surrounding the labels. So if I’m with a bunch of drummers, my “I hit things” makes sense. But out at walmart, my shirt should say “I play drums.”

Just some food for thought…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://www.goblin-cartoons.com/ joshua m. neff

    Here in Johnson County, we’ve been thinking about this a lot, too, and we’re doing loads of testing with staff and patrons to make sure we’re using terms people understand well. For example, our website’s search box currently lets you search the website or the library catalog. But for most users, what’s the difference between the library website & library catalog? We know they’re two different things (unfortunately *sigh*), but they don’t.

  • http://www.goblin-cartoons.com joshua m. neff

    Here in Johnson County, we’ve been thinking about this a lot, too, and we’re doing loads of testing with staff and patrons to make sure we’re using terms people understand well. For example, our website’s search box currently lets you search the website or the library catalog. But for most users, what’s the difference between the library website & library catalog? We know they’re two different things (unfortunately *sigh*), but they don’t.

  • http://freerangelibrarian.com K.G. Schneider

    Context: won a cool hat at the Google booth at ALA last year. Took it off after several hours when I realized that on the back, very much out of context, it said “I’m feeling lucky.”

    On labeling, are ya testin’? Are ya are ya?

  • http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/ Meredith

    Great post, Dave!

    I was closing up the library on Friday and saw a sign in the periodicals area that I hadn’t noticed before. It said “Periodicals do not circulate.” Now, do our students know what a periodical is? Do they know what circulate means? I seriously doubt it. I didn’t when I was 18. Why not “Magazines Can’t Leave the Library” or something like that? At least that will make sense to people.

    We need to look at everything in our library with the eyes of someone who has never been in a library before. And maybe that means dragging people who don’t use the library around the library (or the website) with the promise of free food. My husband, who really dislikes libraries, always notices things I never would. It’s nice to get insights from those who aren’t heavy users of the library.

    And, yeah, I was wondering what your shirt meant too when I saw it on Flickr. ;)

  • http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/ Meredith

    Great post, Dave!

    I was closing up the library on Friday and saw a sign in the periodicals area that I hadn’t noticed before. It said “Periodicals do not circulate.” Now, do our students know what a periodical is? Do they know what circulate means? I seriously doubt it. I didn’t when I was 18. Why not “Magazines Can’t Leave the Library” or something like that? At least that will make sense to people.

    We need to look at everything in our library with the eyes of someone who has never been in a library before. And maybe that means dragging people who don’t use the library around the library (or the website) with the promise of free food. My husband, who really dislikes libraries, always notices things I never would. It’s nice to get insights from those who aren’t heavy users of the library.

    And, yeah, I was wondering what your shirt meant too when I saw it on Flickr. ;)

  • Cynthia Bledsoe

    So, have y ou figure out a good label for your databases. We’ve been talking about this at Charleston County Public Library (SC), realizing that Research databases is a truly unhelpful phase.

  • Cynthia Bledsoe

    So, have y ou figure out a good label for your databases. We’ve been talking about this at Charleston County Public Library (SC), realizing that Research databases is a truly unhelpful phase.

  • davidleeking

    Right now, we’re going with Research as a general header for our databases and subject guides, and then just using both “newspapers and magazines” and “journals” to get our databases.

    We’ll see how that works. Anyone else have good ideas here?

  • davidleeking

    Right now, we’re going with Research as a general header for our databases and subject guides, and then just using both “newspapers and magazines” and “journals” to get our databases.

    We’ll see how that works. Anyone else have good ideas here?

  • http://freerangelibrarian.com/ K.G. Schneider

    Context: won a cool hat at the Google booth at ALA last year. Took it off after several hours when I realized that on the back, very much out of context, it said “I'm feeling lucky.”

    On labeling, are ya testin'? Are ya are ya?