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1

Alphabetized lists are random lists

"Unless you can be absolutely sure that users will know the exact terms in your list, alphabetical order is just random order."

According to Jared Spool, alphabetized lists work for people's name, states, cities, car models, and teams. But they fall apart for things where users don't know the exact wording. Users must resort to the same behavior they need when links are randomly ordered. They must scan every link to make sure they can see what is relevant and what isn't.

Instead, we should use a divide-and-conquer approach by categorizing the items. Once broken up into small groups, it doesn't matter what the order of the links are.

Links:

  • Alphabetized Links are Random Links Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - February 12, 2006

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See also: Information architecture (15)  Links (19)  Navigation (63)  Tips and guidelines (95) 


 

2

Sitemap design - alphabetical or categorical?

In this study from 1999 SURL compared search performance with three types of sitemap designs:
1. Alphabetized sitemap
2. Full categorical sitemap
3. Restricted categorical sitemap, where the links of only one category is visible at the time

Results:
- Categorical sitemaps had significantly higher numbers of successful searches
- Users were significantly more satisfied with the categorical sitemaps
- The full categorical sitemap was the most preferred

The participants found that it was difficult to find information in alphabetized sitemaps because they had to guess how the links are worded. They also said that the full sitemap design was preferred to the restricted because it was easier to compare information between the categories.

Links:

  • The article Sitemap Design: Alphabetical or Categorical? Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - March 06, 2005

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