Corporate Eye

Searching for The Magic

What do you call that object you use to change the channels when you’re watching television?

In our house, we call it the pointy-click, which caused huge hilarity among the teens’ friends when this was revealed. It turned out, of course, that they all used different names for it… one called it the flicker-flacker, another called it the box, and so on. Personally, I think ‘pointy-click’ is very apt.

It didn’t seem as though anyone used an ‘official’ name (which is, I suppose, the remote control device), and there wasn’t much consistency in usage either.

This made me think about the words you’re using on your corporate website, especially in navigation. There’s a lot of scope for misunderstanding, or simply lack of comprehension, with the result that the visitor doesn’t achieve their goal in visiting. This might be because:

  • you’re using internal language on an external-facing site, so the word isn’t understood
  • you’re using industry terminology without explanation, and again, the word isn’t understood
  • you’re using jargon or catchphrases that aren’t comprehensible to someone not a native speaker of your language or familiar with your culture
  • your website visitor uses a different word to describe something – like our pointy-click example
  • the visitor just doesn’t know the word you’re using, any word for the thing they want to find, or even what it is they’re looking for
  • the website search requires an exact match, so doesn’t find the not-quite-right word the visitor searches for

These all have different solutions, from re-evaluating your search function to minor rewrites of content to avoid, for instance, sporting references. To help educate the visitor, you could consider adding footnotes to explain acronyms or abbreviations; glossaries of technical terms; or even something like a ‘for the new investor’ section as Credit Suisse and Novartis (among others) do.

Incidentally, I asked around at work, and other terms for the remote were revealed, including the dit-dit, and the magic. Now I like that… ‘Who’s got the magic?’

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This is something we come across predominantly in the oil and gas industry and new tech companies when we build there websites as a lot of words and phrases need explanation. However, glossaries seem to be the most popular option. Have you come across any really good examples of glossaries?

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