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15:2 Avoid Jargon

Relative Importance:

Relative Importance rating of 4 out of 5

Strength of Evidence:

Strength of Evidence rating of 4 out of 5

Document Type: Guideline


Topic:

Web Content - Writing


Guideline:

Do not use words that typical users may not understand.


Comments:

Terminology plays a large role in the user’s ability to find and understand information. Many terms are familiar to designers and content writers, but not to users. In one study, some users did not understand the term ’cancer screening.’ Changing the text to ’testing for cancer’ substantially improved users’ understanding.

To improve understanding among users who are accustomed to using the jargon term, it may be helpful to put that term in parentheses. A dictionary or glossary may be helpful to users who are new to a topic, but should not be considered a license to frequently use terms typical users do not understand.


Sources:

  • Cockburn, A. & Jones, S. (1996). Which way now? Analysing and easing inadequacies in WWW navigation. International Journal Human-Computer Studies, 45, 105-129.
  • Evans, M. (1998). Web Design: An Empiricist’s Guide. Unpublished master’s thesis. Seattle: University of Washington. Retrieved May 2003, from http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/webmastr/webdesgn.pdf.
  • Horton, W. (1990). Designing and Writing Online Documentation. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  • Mayhew, D. (1992). Principles and Guidelines in User Interface Design. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Morkes, J. & Nielsen, J. (1997). Concise, SCANNABLE, and objective: How to write for the Web. Retrieved November 2005, from http://www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/writing.html.
  • Morkes, J. & Nielsen, J. (1998). Applying writing guidelines to Web pages. Retrieved November 2005, from http://www.useit.com/papers/webwriting/rewriting.html.
  • Nall, J., Koyani, S.J., & Lafond, C. (2001, January). Lessons learned while usability testing the CancerNet Web site. National Cancer Institute, Communication Technologies Branch Technical Report.
  • Schramm, W. (1973). The nature of communications between humans. In W. Schramm & D. Roberts, The Process and Effects of Mass Communication. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • Spyridakis, J.H. (2000). Guidelines for authoring comprehensible web pages and evaluating their success. Technical Communication, 47(3), 359-382.
  • Tullis, T.S. (2001). Web usability lessons learned. Fidelity Center for Applied Technology Technical Report. Fidelity Investments.
  • Zimmerman, D.E. & Prickett, T. (2000). A usability case study: Prospective students use of a university web page. Proceedings of the 2000 Society for Technical Communication Annual Conference.
  • Zimmerman, D.E., Akerelrea, C.A., Buller, D.B., Hau, B., & LeBlanc, M. (2002). Integrating usability testing into the development of a 5-a-day nutrition Web site for at-risk populations in the American Southwest. Journal of Health Psychology.

Poor Example:

These Web pages, often visited by the public, do not use language that is accessible and free of jargon.

15_02_bad_example1

15_02_bad_example2