Organization and Labeling

The first step in any information architecture project is correctly organizing and labeling relevant documents, pages, ideas, and things. Correct organization will form the backbone of navigation and site structure. Informative labels will communicate that organizational structure effectively to users.

Approaches to Organization

There are multiple ways to organize items. Common approaches include alphabetically, chronologically, by subject, by file type, by genre, or by location. No organization scheme is better than any other; what is important is to select a strategy that is appropriate given a particular audience and use case.
“Objective” organizational approaches, such as grouping things alphabetically or chronologically, have the advantage of being easy and straightforward. The main disadvantage, though, is items grouped chronologically may have nothing to do with one another.
“Subjective” organizational approaches, such as grouping by subject or genre, group items based on their content. When successful, this strategy is powerful because it matches how audiences think about items. However, correctly determining subject boundaries can be extremely difficult, as audience members may have different intuitions about what items belong in which subjects.

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Strong labels and titles help a visitor determine whether a page, link, or content under a heading will have the desired information. Users typically scan titles, headings, and links first, and long bodies of text only after they have decided that doing so is likely to be worth their time. To maximize usability, use labels that provide users a good “information scent”.

The best labels are familiar to users already, using language they already use in their daily lives. The best labels are visitor-oriented, not site-owner- or producer-oriented. Avoid the temptation to make up or use unfamiliar words in an attempt to build interest, as these often come at an expense to navigation.

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Additional Resources