“Information” in Navigation Labels

One of the most challenging aspects of designing a navigation system is finding the right labels for its links or buttons. The words we use for these labels must be recognizable while being distinctive. They must be specific enough that users will be able to differentiate between all the choices before them, but broad enough to encompass all the things they point to. They must be pithy; you don’t have space to ramble. They must also help create a sense of context; the understanding that this place is different from others. In short, defining labels is not a trivial task. We must be careful with the words we choose.

Look at this navigation structure:

Sign-In | Banking | Credit Cards | Loans | Investments | Learning

These labels give you a clear idea of the sort of place you’re in. (A bank.) Some are more specific than others. (“Credit Cards” is more specific than “Banking,” for example.) They’re all short and to the point. I think this structure works well for a bank.

Although it feels obvious, defining a simple navigation structure such as this one probably required many hours of meetings. I’ve often been in such meetings. Team members will go through many ideas, trying various terms to see how well they describe the concepts they’re pointing to and how they relate to each other.

One of the words that inevitably comes up in such discussions is “Information.” For example, while I don’t have insights into the particular structure above, I can guarantee the team that designed it spent many hours discussing the term “Learning;” I’d bet at some point someone suggested the label “Educational Information” instead.

I always probe such suggestions. “Information” is not a helpful term in these contexts. After all, everything in the app or website is information. It’s redundant. You could as easily say “Banking Information” or “Loan Information” — “Information” doesn’t add anything. At four syllables, it’s a long word for a navigation label — and remember it never stands by itself, but always as part of a duo. (“Educational Information” has nine syllables — much too long for a label in most cases.) Some folks try to get around this by shortening it to “Info” instead:

Whether it be “Info” or “Information,” you’re not telling me anything useful by including it. Whenever you hear it suggested for a navigation structure, take a step back and examine the overall organization scheme. The appearance of “information” may be a sign that you’re trying to do too much with that one part of the environment.