Monday, July 13, 2009

The Importance of Exact Terminology

One of my first, full-time "professional" (as in, I had "trainer" somewhere in my job title) corporate training jobs was at Johns Hopkins implementing an Electronic Medical Record.

Occasionally, when I would forget the name of the element I was pointing out, I would say "Click this thingie."

Poor JO (my boss at the time) spent a year removing the term "thingie" from my vocabulary.

My first lesson in the importance of terminology when training computer applications.


BTW JO - if you happen to run into this post through Facebook, thanks for everything! I haven't forgotten :')
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The importance of terminology has hit home again with the Vignette implementation.

Case #1 - Template

Template, in Vignette, is the structure of the particular web page between the navigation and the footer that displays the content items created by the Content Creators.

Template, the way I chose to use it, is a generic content instance that serves as a partially filled in form. The Content Creator can use this partially filled in form to create multiple pieces of content without having to fill out the same items every time.

Is it any wonder why the students were confused.

One of the students told me a better term for my context is "Partially filled form."

I'm using "Baseline form" from now on....
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Case #2 - Highlight

Highlight, in Vignette, a particular type of item within many content types that allows content creators to bring up a summary version of an article or story to another page. Usually consisting of a short title, 20 words of text and a 220x110 picture.

Highlight, as used when the content creators attempted to write materials for their web pages.

"Make sure you include 4 highlights for your content."

The problem occurred when we then tried to show them where they were supposed to put these for "highlights." Really, the material they wrote is content for 4 sidebars that would then be used to create a rotating sidebar. Completely different content type (with a completely different workflow) from a highlight.

Confused? They are too. Though now that they have finally seen the tool they are using to add all of this material, it is making a little more sense. Still - it took 30 minutes of class time to sift through the terminology.

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Since this is still implementation, we are still trying to create a consistent terminology that bridges the gap between what the developers and technical folk understand and what the end-users understand. Trickier work than I had anticipated.

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