Labeling the labels and other blog usability oddities

I know a woman who got a labeller and went a little crazy. When my wife and I visited her a couple of weeks later, everything was labeled.

TV? Labeled. Phone? Labeled. VCR? (It was a few years ago.) Also labelled.

I was wondering about that a little bit as I’ve been tweaking and adding to this new blog design. Phil Gerbyshak at Make it Great had given me a few suggestions, and I had wanted to do both of those things better:

  1. Meaningful categories
    Provide a better way for new visitors of this blog to get a very quick visual sense of what’s buried in a couple of years of blogging.

  2. Best of bizhack
    Showcase some of the best posts (IMHO) to give new (and long-term) visitors a bit of exposure to the best of what I have to offer.

The first – meaningful categories – was the main priority for me (more on the second in another post). I like the Category Cloud plugin (for WordPress) because it sizes your categories in relationship to the number of posts they contain. It also allows you to display an astonishing number of categories in a very compact but not visually busy space. (It’s not busy or cluttered-looking because to the quick glance, all the categories form a visual whole.)

But it wasn’t working out well:

Under the ads
First I had it under the Google AdWords/AdSense block. Too low – not visible enough. If the goal was to allow visitors to get a quick visual sense of what’s on this blog, they might never see it.

Not good.

Up top, labeled
Then I moved it up top. Great … but the title was bothering me. Why was I labeling my categories? Wasn’t it fairly obvious that they were categories? I mean, you might as well label the sky, the moon, or the sun.

So I took all the labels off – including the Search header. That proved to be too much – too bare, naked, and possibly confusing for those who aren’t full-time web addicts.

The perfect solution
So. Now I have it as you see it: “search” is still a label, but “category” or “tag cloud” is no-where to be seen. It just is … which is perfectly sufficient.

Enough, not too much, just in the right proportion: perfect. In my humble opinion, naturally.

As Strunk and White would say:

A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

Just like design.

[tags] blogging, usability, design, tag, cloud, categories, labels, john koetsier [/tags]