Abbott : Vague labels

Confusing menu headings are frustrating for information seekers and dilute company messages.

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The feature

Abbott’s corporate website has three items on the primary navigation bar with unconventional headings – ‘Live Healthy’, ‘Get Inspired’ and ‘For Professionals’. The ‘Live Healthy’ section has a series of articles on staying fit – how to exercise, why it is important to drink water, etc. ‘Get Inspired’ has stories about how the American pharmaceutical company’s products are helping people. ‘For Professionals’ is aimed at those in the healthcare sector, with information on product categories such as diabetes care and vision care.

These three main sections have secondary menu bars with unconventional headings; eg, the sub-menu items under ‘Live Healthy’ are ‘Thrive’, ‘Know’ and ‘Manage’.

The takeaway

There is a fashion for reducing the number of choices in primary navigation to save space and achieve a cleaner design. This can work as long as designers choose the headings carefully, and Abbott’s are not.

‘Live Healthy’, ‘Get Inspired’ and ‘For Professionals’ are too ambiguous. Visitors may guess that ‘Live Healthy’ means advice on nutrition and exercise, but they will have to click to find out. ‘Get Inspired’ could mean anything, and ‘For Professionals’ will confuse analysts and journalists who may think it is aimed at them as well as, say, doctors. They will have to use the footer to get to the media and investor sections. Secondary menus compound the confusion – eg, ‘Thrive’ reveals almost nothing about the contents of the sub-section.

Abbott does not use mega dropdown panels so visitors may find themselves following several false trails before they find what they need. Jobseekers, presumably a top audience for a pharmaceutical corporate website, are poorly served, having to navigate via the footer (or scroll down to a panel on the home page).

Unconventional headings can show creativity, if used sparingly, but Abbott makes users guess where they are going at every stage. Overuse suggests that the marketing department may be in charge of the website. Vague menu labels subtract from marketing messages too though and are a less than effective way to promote ‘brand’ and story content.
First published 01 July, 2015
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