Does your labelling cause confusion?

Paul Boag

I find it fascinating to watch users interact with navigation on websites. In particular, I am always interested in how users react when they encounter a term they do not understand.

Lets imagine an 18 year old visiting a University website. In the navigation they encounter a label marked Alumni. They don’t understand that the term refers to former students and that the content is therefore not relevant to them.

One might expect that when faced with a term they do not understand they would simply choose to ignore it. However, the reality is very different.

When faced with an unfamiliar term users feel a sense of doubt. This creates one of two reactions…

  • The sense of doubt leads to uncertainty and inaction.
  • They feel a need to understand the unfamiliar term and so waste time investigating the section in case it contains relevant content to them.

In either case their experience is damaged.

The lesson we take away from this is that all labels need to be understandable by all users even if the content contained is not relevant to them.