Name That Thing Exercise

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Finding the right terminology for a product’s features and content can be challenging. This can be especially challenging if the original taxonomy evolved within a highly specialized group or culture. Terminology born under these circumstances can easily be considered jargon and completely foreign to others outside the group.So how do we avoid terms that can be considered jargon?

  • Start with the current definition of the term you are analyzing.
  • Replace references to the term within the original definition with the word “thing”.
  • Review and replace any additional jargon within the definition with a natural language equivalent. For example, you might replace “sodium chloride” with “salt”.
  • Isolate multiple or conflicting definitions within the original definition if they exist.
  • Repeat the process until you have come to a definition that contains the minimal amount of natural language terms

Example

Original definition 1st pass 2nd pass 3rd pass
Functionality in <product> that <does some long complex and wordy definition that is difficult to understand without a PHD> This <thing> is <shorter simpler way of describing the thing> This <thing> is <even shorter way of describing the thing> This <thing> is <even shorter still way of describing the thing>
This <thing> is <alternate shorter way of describing the thing>. This <thing> is <alternate even shorter way of describing the thing>. This <thing> is <alternate shorter still way of describing the thing>.
This <thing> is <alternate shorter way of describing the thing>. This <thing> is <alternate even shorter way of describing the thing>.  This <thing> is <alternate shorter still way of describing the thing>.

Create the survey

  • Start with your simplified definition (still with the term displayed as thing)
  • Analyze the natural language terms you discovered in the first step and create a list of potential terms for the simplified definition

Note: Avoid “leading” terms. Be sure your terms do not include terms within the definition. Replace leading words with equivalent synonyms.

Example
Identify and review the definition of the term in question.
These <things> represent <the shortest, simplest description>.

  • <one term for thing>
  • <alternate term for thing>
  • <alternate term for thing>
  • <alternate term for thing>
  • <alternate term for thing>
  • <alternate term for thing>
  • <alternate term for thing>

Launch the survey

  • Ask participants (users of the system) to review the simplified definition
  • Ask participants to match the simplified definition to the terms; they feel, best match the definition.
  • Ask the participant to rank their selections (1, 2, 3 etc.) If the participant cannot match a term, ask them to suggest a new term
  • Repeat this process with 20-30 participants from each segment of your target audience.

Note: A higher participant sample will provide a lower margin of error depending the size of your target audience. For example, with a target audience of 100 users, and a 10% margin of error you will need 49 participants

Analyze the results

  • Aggregate the results of the survey
  • Identify the number of times a term was selected
  • Calculate the total percentage of agreement for the terms with scores
  • Include newly submitted terms in your results

Depending on your results, you may want to repeat the exercise excluding terms that were not selected and including newly suggested terms.