Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Why the Tech Industry Needs to Change Its Language

On acronyms and jargon...

"The acronyms and jargon that litter the Internet landscape fail to convey meaning because they’re based on confusing technical specifications with no immediately recognizable language roots: “TCP/IP,” “MP3,” and “KB,” for example. As a result, millions of people fumble their way through their daily computer use in a state of continuous confusion. How we think about technology is directly related to how we talk and write about it. As long as we are limiting the discussion to technical specifications, we reduce accessibility, limit usability, and ultimately fail to realize the benefits of these tools for many individuals. And, as businesses, that means we lose potential customers and revenue.

As we adopt the next wave of networked technologies—everything from wireless handheld devices, to Voice over IP, to digital video on demand, to connected home appliances—we are expanding the pool of technology users well beyond its old limits, beyond the privileged, technically minded few. Right now, we have the opportunity to craft language that makes these tools accessible to more people. As technology changes the way we work, play, and think, we need to open up the discussion to everyone. Good product design must include clear communication.

Tech companies have earned a reputation for not caring about how bewildering their products are to the average person. But they should care. For in the increasingly competitive marketplace in which we find ourselves—a marketplace that adds more and more non-technical users every day—a company that makes a product that is easier to use and understand will have a distinct competitive advantage over those that neglect their audience’s needs.
Tech Speak Confuses the Everyday Audience

The language of technology has long been defined by those who create the function, but are indifferent to the form. The industry has constructed its words for communicating in software engineering meetings and on the factory floor, not for use in non-technical situations.

The immediate impact of this language barrier is that people are not buying high-tech products because they don’t understand them. A 2003 study, commissioned by the Global Consumer Advisory Board for chip maker Advanced Micro Devices indicated that tech terms as common as “megahertz,” “MP3,” and “Bluetooth” leave most people confused. The greatest functions can’t be used if no one, outside of an elite few, knows what they can do."   continued ...   (Via Digital-Web)

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