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I'm working on a project with a psychology office and I'm mulling over an issue that I haven't seen a lot written for. Namely, when is it best to use inquisitive categories vs. statements in a navigational context?

In advertising, one of the first things we learned about copy was never to ask a yes or no question, because the viewer would always almost answer it in the negative. On the other hand, an open ended question can be useful, even inspirational.

  • Where do you want to go today?
  • Got milk?

In this instance, I've got a page where users often show up in a state of shame, confusion, agitation, depression, desperation, resignation, or even mania. Even the most stable visitor (that's actually the majority, fyi) is putting himself or herself into a state of vulnerability. The fact that many of them have little or no experience with therapy, and of those who do, many have had neutral to negative ones plays into the equation as well.

Thus, when I look at my abstract information architecture, I see common questions instead of statements. At the top of my IA I have:

  • How does psychology work?
  • What can I expect from a session?
  • How do I know if we're a good fit?
  • How much will this cost?

And then on the business end of things, the headers are more standard:

  • My Privacy
  • Learn about [THERAPIST]
  • Office & Directions
  • Contact [THERAPIST]

While I'd normally try to turn those questions into statements for the sake of clarity - "How Psychology Works | What to Expect | Determining a Good Fit | Cost" - in this case, I wonder if keeping the questions makes more sense?

It helps to know the topics that go under a question header:

[What can I expect?]

  • How does this thing work?
  • What is a session like?
  • How long is this going to take?
  • How often will I see you?
  • I want to make sure I don't feel judged
  • Are you going to give me medication?
  • Can we talk on the phone first?

Thus, the leading question is actually (in many cases) shorthand for a series of additional questions that have come up in the course of user research. The other three question headers follow a similar pattern.

Is there any specific research about the appropriateness of questions as a primary navigation label as opposed to keyword / keyphrase type headers?

Discuss, discuss, I'm all verklempt (not really, but points if you get the reference).

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I am not aware of any specific research in this area but would suggest that navigational items remain as statements as these will be unequivocal in their meaning allowing users to better anticipate the type and scope of content that lies beyond.

A question format on the other hand adds another layer of complexity and reduces users ability to anticipate the type of answers to expect, particularly when it comes to the language terminology used within the "response". Is it purely informational or inspirational, formal vs informal.

Finally I would say that using statements in navigation allows you more scope to add a variety of content that would not necessarily fit in with the question answer format. This also allows you to account for future growth in your IA.

Hope this helps

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  • It's a useful perspective. I did end up going with statements when I moved from the Abstract AI into a navigational tree. The only question I retained was one of cost. [Home] [How Therapy Works] [What Does It Cost?] [About Me] [Appointments] [Office] [Contact] – Imperative Jun 16 '14 at 17:17
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I think that questions as lables are OK, but not for interfaces of software or web sites. They're OK for ads. A line of several questions as a website navigation would make me feel a bit uncomfortable — I already have questions my mind, my mind is looking for answers, for affirmative sentences and labels. I assume that keyphrase/keywords are better percieved.

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