All About Website Usability Blog – Holly Phillips

Watch your words
July 23, 2009, 4:55 am
Filed under: scent, taxonomy / naming, usability basics

There’s a great quote in Alice in Wonderland that’s eerily applicable to website design: 

“Speak English! I don’t know the meaning of half those long words, and I don’t believe you do either!” – Eaglet, talking to Alice in Wonderland

We run across this in websites all the time:  the company uses terms that they assume their customers know and understand.  But over and over again in direct customer research we hear customers complain that they don’t know what this acronym or that abbreviation means.  Even seemingly “common” terms like RSS continue to be unrecognized by even the most technical customers.  In interviews, once the term is explained, the customers usually say “oh yeah, I’ve heard of that.  I like it!”  but also that they’d never even consider clicking on it because they didn’t know what it was.

I’ve also seen manufacturing divisions use their internal product names on their website in the assumption that their customers know what those names mean.  Here again, even the most regular customers refute that and plead for the company to use common terminology.

Why make things harder for your visitors by using internal language?  At best it will slow them down, at worst it will turn them off.  Our goal should be to make our sites easier to use; using common words goes a long way towards doing that.


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