Corporate Eye

Do your visitors know what you’re talking about?

I reviewed a bio-technology site recently which was written in language I didn’t understand.

I did study sciences until I was 18, and have a doctorate (though in ancient philosophy and science, not 21st century science), so I’m not uneducated, but I still didn’t understand it. And I wouldn’t be the only one. According to the Campbell-Ewald Health research of 2006, only 55% of Americans can understand the content on pharmaceutical sites, because the average site requires 12 years of education. Many people browsing such sites will have less exposure to language than this.

The problem for me was simply the terminology used.

Some of the scientific language used could have been rephrased into simpler English, but some of it was essential. To play with language for a moment, it was essential both because it was necessary, and because the science it was describing is the essence of the company.

This problem isn’t true just of scientific sites, of course. Every industry has its own language and terminology. While it is vital to convey the nature of your company, it is also important that your visitors can understand what you’re saying.

This is where a glossary comes in.

Glossaries – help your visitor understand you

Providing a glossary on your site is a simple add-on that can provide a lot of value. Use the glossary to explain not only the special terms used in your industry, but also the other terms used on your site. For example, in the Investor section, you probably use specialist financial terms. Many of your visitors will understand these, but not everyone. Your CSR section probably has its own language – and perhaps even your Media section.


Kelda – like many other companies, though not enough – provide a glossary specifically for investors, and link to it from their main navigation, so it is easy to find.

National Grid include CSR terminology in their glossary.

UBS - glossary

UBS provide definitions of over 2,400 banking terms – useful enough for finance students to bookmark independently of their main site, I should think.

Is there language on your site that is industry-specific? Why not have a look – or, better, ask someone from outside your industry to look.

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