UX On Your Terms: Terminology Considerations for Enterprise Apps

Terminology is a critical part of the user experience. Here's some guidance for enterprise apps UX designers to consider when creating designs and prototypes for testing.

  • When developing new terms, avoid puns, humor, jargon, symbols, or making up your own abbreviations or acronyms just to save space.

  •  Avoid compound words (that is, words consisting of multiple nouns and verbs), gerunds (that is, words ending in ing) and adjectives. These can be problematic for translation too.

  • When designing native mobile apps (for Android, iOS, Blackberry, and so on) or integrations with third-party applications, remember the user experience may require you to use terminology other than Oracle’s version of the term. In some cases, conflicts are inevitable, UX designers should be prepared to clarify to developers which version should be used and why.

    Apple iOS Starts term

    Oracle apps Starts term equivalent

Apple uses Starts and Ends in the iPhone Calendar. Oracle uses From Date and To Date, Effective Start Date and Effective End Date, From Date and To Date and so on in Oracle Fusion Applications.
  • The simple rule of terminology is that each term has only one meaning in that context. The same word can mean different things, depending how and where it is used.


    Supply a clear context for usage and a description for any new term requested. This information will be stored with the term. If you can, supply a screen shot of the prototype showing where and how the term is used to add more context. Specify what term should not be used in that context too--for example if users objected to particular terms during usability testing and you decided on something else, then include the rejected terms as deprecated versions of the approved one. 

  • Research your terminology and language style requirements. Never dumb down the language used in the UI. It is a critical part of the overall UX. If you believe a term or style is required in English then pursue it using UX testing and market justification. Terminology and style can be developed for new interactions in any language, for example, check out how Apple's iOS and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 deal with these issues in Spanish and German respectively:

English

Spanish

Tap

Pulse

Double tap

Pulce dos veces

Touch and hold

Mantenga pulsado

Flick

Deslice el dedo

Drag

Arrastre

Pinch

Pellizco

Shake

Agite

(Source: Welinske J, Developing User Assistance for Mobile Apps)

Microsoft WP7 German style example

(Source: Microsoft)

Any other guidance on terminology for UX designers? Find those comments and share...

Comments:

With localization in mind, I’d also recommend trying to avoid metaphors (e.g. over the shoulder), semantic neologisms (a new meaning given to an already existing word) and terminologization (“the process by which a general-language word or expression is transformed into a term designating a concept in a special language” e.g. the words spam, Web, boot when first used in IT contexts).

The typical textbook example is wizard – it was a pain to find suitable target-language terminology when it was first introduced in Microsoft products, as the literal meaning was inappropriate in most markets.

A more recent example is the terminologization of ‘pinch’ and ‘flick’ in Apple multi-touch devices. It looks like they were not identified as terms designating specific gestures and, as a result, they were treated as generic words and translated loosely and inconsistently in the localized documentation, making it very hard for users to understand what the relevant concepts were actually called.

Posted by Licia – Terminologia etc. on August 20, 2011 at 11:26 AM IST #

Let me add a note also on compound words, which are hard to avoid. My recommendation is that their exact meaning is always clarified in the termdatabase, especially for localization purposes. For example, "default object validation task" could be parsed as
[default object] [validation task],
[default [[object validation] task]] or
[default [object validation]] [task].

Languages with a different word order from English might experience an additional problem with number, which might need to be made explicit – in the example, ‘object’ and ‘validation’ could be meant as either singular or plural nouns, which brings the total of “grammatically allowed” interpretations to 12. Needless to say, usually context and relevant knowledge provide the necessary clues, but in more ambiguous cases (e.g. is a split button a button that splits or a button that is split?) a preliminary explanation will help avoid time-consuming research and localization errors across languages.

Posted by Licia – Terminologia etc. on August 20, 2011 at 11:46 AM IST #

Excellent points Licia. Yes, I remember the Wizard issue. With regard to Apple's gesture-based terminology I do see confusion between "Tap and Hold" and "Touch and Hold" a lot (the term, I believe, is "Touch and Hold").

Posted by Ultan (Oracle Applications-UX) on August 20, 2011 at 01:43 PM IST #

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Oracle applications global user experience (UX): Culture, localization, internationalization, language, personalization, more. For globally-savvy UX people, so that it all fits together for Oracle's worldwide customers.

Audience: Enterprise applications translation and localization topics for the user experience professional (designers, engineers, developers, researchers)!
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Ultan Ó Broin. Director, Global Applications User Experience, Oracle Corporation. On Twitter: @localization

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