How do you decide on terminology in your UX designs?


Hi all

How much influence does terminology play when you’re creating a user experience? I find that this is what I spend most of my time on; deciding the best words to describe actions and sections within applications.

I would be interested to know how you deal with terminology when you create UX.


I’m a content strategist, so this is what I spend the majority of my time on. I can explain my role on my team, if that would help.

I work for an agency that makes mobile apps. We have about 12 designers, who are extremely well rounded: they all are expected to do visual design, interaction design, information architecture, motion design, and content design (ie, writing).

I came aboard last August. Now that I’m here, I handle content-heavy tasks such as managing content matrices and content modeling. However, since those tasks don’t come up all the time, most of my time is really spent consulting with designers who have questions about interface content: what should this error message say? Which call to action is best? How can we onboard the user in 35 words?

It’s very difficult to completely separate writing from UX. (If you read Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think, a lot of his usability findings center around words and content.) So I see this as a collaboration between writing and design (which is why I like the term content design).

Does that help? Let me know if you have any questions! I love talking about content strategy and UX. :slight_smile:


I can also recommend books that might help. I really like Letting Go of the Words by Ginny Redish.


@melanie_seibert Thanks so much for your response and book recommendation! How do you go about deciding the best copy for messages and CTAs? More often my colleagues and I do bounce ideas around but it isn’t until we go to usability testing do we truly get good feedback on the best terms and wording to use.


I’m glad you’re doing usability testing! Users will give you some of the best ideas of copy to use.

My biggest rule of thumb for CTAs—and you probably already know this—is that they need to be very clear and actionable. Do they make sense in the context?

I prefer verbs over nouns in almost all scenarios (unless it would be misleading). For example, “Buy Now” is better than “Free eBook” or something.

Google’s UX Writing team gave a talk a couple weeks ago at I/O 2017 about writing for mobile apps. They said that Google Hotel Search got way more clicks when the CTA was “Check Availability” instead of “Book a Room.” Presumably it was less scary—I don’t have to commit right away, I can check first. You can see the talk here:


Thanks for the link I watched the video and it was very informative and useful. Great advice to live by. Clear, Concise and useful.


Forgive me, @annabelle_andre, but I’m having a dense moment. Are you asking how we create terminology to assist work with our development and other business teams, or are you asking how we create user-consumed terminology as part of the project?

I feel like both topics have relevance, but I want to make sure I’m answering the right question.


@dougcollins That’s not a dense moment, it is a perfectly appropriate question :slight_smile: . I believe I’m looking at the latter question, ‘how we create user-consumed terminology as part of the project?’.

This is where my focus lies and it’s always a battle to try and ensure that what we create is translated and understood by the audience.


@annabelle_andre Thank you for explaining it to me. As a new dad, I’ve been running on 4 hours of sleep a night lately, and it’s starting to catch up with me a bit :slight_smile:

I don’t have anything much better to offer than what @melanie_seibert has already proffered,

I’m lucky in a certain respect that I haven’t run into that problem quite a bit. I work for a company that offers online trading to financial advisors, so a lot of the terminology we use is industry-specific, or was already established before I joined the organization.

On the rare chance that I do have some new terminology to create, I always spend some time looking to see if there’s an existing industry standard, if there’s something a competitor offers that’s similar (mostly to avoid anything too close), and focus on being descriptive about what our product actually does.

I suppose that, in the long run, my approach is to let the content determine the terminology.