If I asked you what is one of the biggest problems on websites today, I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t say it has anything to do with words.
But what if I told you it does?
Let’s talk about user-centric language.
One research group describes the usability problems that result from something as simple as using the wrong words on websites:
“Writers often use the language they are most familiar with when describing offerings on websites, without realizing that those terms are unknown to their readers. Unfortunately, site visitors often don’t understand those company- or industry-specific words and phrases.”
In fact, a repeated challenge on websites is that words (“terminology”) and even how the content is organized (“content structure”) reflects the organization’s internal understanding of their own products and services, rather than an external user’s understanding of that company’s products and services.
This problem happens frequently, rearing its ugly head when:
- companies use feature-laden language to describe their products and services instead of talking about how these products and features benefit customers;
- websites use nomenclature on navigation menus that’s recognized by internal audiences but not external ones; and
- navigation menus use an audience-based navigation scheme—confusing, because not all users on your website know or realize what audience they fall into—rather than a task-based one.
When there’s limited time to do UX research, examining the language on your website can be a last priority. But no website—or digital product—can meet its goals without considering whether the language in its interface is user-centric.