I spent most my vacation catching up on reading, feeling curious, and running down rabbit holes. In the process of putting in time reading about what people are saying about product management I stumbled into other words such as growth hacking and authority websites. My closet will continue to be sorely neglected while I connect the dots on all these concepts.
Over the course of my career I have done a lot of user research (with people from the target user group) for web applications that include “help desk” applications and core business function applications.
For applications and websites that someone may not be using everyday, that person generally doesn’t know the specialized terminology or acronyms. Users may understand the concepts based on the context of their experience, in more general terms. Even for core business function applications, I have heard the same “term” called different things by different people. Again, it’s likely related to their past experiences and the words that have stuck with them over time.
Sometimes the learning curve can be overcome, because the target audience is using that application frequently (daily or weekly). For applications that someone may use every six months, learning that new terminology is less likely to stick.
If the target audience is on an infrequent cycle (i.e help desk applications), incorporating the words that the users understand is critical especially if you want to improve user adoption or create a self service environment. If the users don’t understand the terminology they will either give up or find other methods accomplishing their task. Avoid turning adoption into an uphill battle.
There are multiple methods for gathering user research and feedback to help you identify the right words.
Card sorting is an activity to demonstrate how people understand and categorize information. Participants are given a set of words on cards to put into groupings. Ideally the participants can name their groups (open card sort) and provide feedback on anything they don’t understand. Online applications are available to run this activity, making it easier to gather a larger number of responses.
Usability testing is a technique where multiple users interact with a prototype or even the existing application to provide feedback. As the facilitator you observe the participant’s behavior and ask questions about what they are doing. Tip: people generally don’t self-report their behavior correctly, which is why this method is particularly helpful to identify potential issues. What people think they do versus what they actually do are generally different. Even with a limited group of users (5 or so) you can identify the largest usability issues.
With all user research and feedback techniques you want a mix of target users (frequent/power, infrequent, and new). They bring different past experiences and expectations to your application.
Also consider using these methods in sequence. The results of a card sort should give strong indicators of groupings and terminology, but there will be some wiggle room in there. Following up with usability testing or user interviews will help identify if any of the recommendations need further adjustment.