Comprehension and Vocabulary in User Interfaces

User research almost always reveals something that demands further elaboration. Here’s one bit of a reflection.

Our Products, Our Services, or What We Do?

During a very simple user test on mobile navigation, the participants were asked to find information about the product/service offerings on several mobile websites and were later asked to reflect how they think of each. The common vocabulary uses “(Our) Products” and/or “(Our Services)”, or, alternatively, “What We Do”, in the navigation to help guide the users.

That’s pretty straightforward and non-dramatic until a few of the participants reflected that some websites are easier to them because seeing words like “products” or “services” makes the most sense and they had no trouble determining that’s the section they need to go to look for the company’s products/services. In comparison, websites that use “what we do” as the umbrella terms for their products/services were confusing to some, as one participant explained it (paraphrased here): you’re selling products/services, I want to know about that, I don’t care what you do, “What We Do” is confusing to me.

Marketing Rhetorics Influence the Comprehension of UI Vocabulary

Because it’s usually the former that reaches the customers first and it establishes an expectation. Expectation gap appears when the customers see a different vocabulary when they want to dig further. Imagine you’re talking about your great products and services both in promotion and on the website homepage, but when someone interested try to find more about it, she can’t find a section called “Products and Services” – and instead, she finds “What We Do”.

That may not be a big deal, many people don’t have a problem with “What We Do” and just as easily click on it without hesitation. So only the stats of your own user tests could help you find out what works better.

While the subtle issue here is the consistency of rhetorics: what kind of identity do you want to establish in front of your customers? Do you want to look prestigious (yeah sometimes that’s really a good idea) by talking vaguely about what you can do for me, with appealing sound and vision? Would your customers likely to be practical and as straightforward as “shut up get me the product and take my money”?

The bigger, holistic consideration of brand identity and rhetorics is inevitably coupled with the vocabulary used in lower-level interfaces. And the gaps between them create potential comprehension issue.



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