October 20th, 2011
The other night, I was up till quite late reading up on a popular portal solution. In the beginning, I thought everything made sense, and I was pretty happy that I “got it”. But after a while, probably about two hrs in, found myself googling or going to wikipedia to find the definitions of every other technical word, even the terms I thought I understood at the start. I found myself getting more and more confused about the thing I was reading. I was unsure of myself. This was because some generic terms you and I would use were taken to be part of the systems “default” term and concept and had given them their own definitions.
I don’t know about you, but I think terminology and jargon sessions need to be part of the process of any web project, particularly large ones. With new and different roles in the development lifecycle of software/online products, and different companies playing those different roles for one client, it becomes crucial to spend some time on being on the same page with everyone. If you don’t take time to flesh out the terminology to be used for that project it can create a sense of distrust and second-guessing amongst project members from different teams especially between the tech and the design team.
Since we all come from IT and read similar books and blogs, we tend to use the same words but interpret and use them slightly differently. This often leads to a debate on semantics. But in the end, we are all probably talking about the same thing.
Communicating design is one of the key skills a designer needs to have and part of the design process. I believe this must include a communication or explanation of the terms you use and the naming convention you will be using for your documentation for that project.
The benefits? If you have everyone understanding what you mean, people (like your clients and stakeholders) can give you better feedback and input without getting stuck on what something means. In fact, people want to understand more of these things, which means they are more curious, more involved and more aware of the process and are therefore less in the dark about what they are paying for. This can only lead to a successful project and more importantly the design.