I stumbled across this post by Peter Hildebrandt, giving a very good overview of why your products should not have labels. Of course, the product should not simply lack any operation instructions, but it should be designed to that labels are unnecessary. The examples are real-world examples of affordances, as explained by Don Norman. I mentioned the concept earlier in this blog.
So how can you drop labels? Peter gives the following answers:
- Make the shape of the control have an obvious ‘affordance’ as to how to use it
- Make the shape of the controls the same as the thing you are controlling
- Make controls uniquely shaped so that once a control is learned it’s remembered by feel
- Make controls you want people to use larger and proud
- Focus on the most-used controls first