The Effect of Using Jargon on a Website
Some companies and technical writers believe that using the latest jargon on a website is a good way to show off skills…and it can be, if their peers and prospective customers are the same people. However, most prospective customers know much less than you do and are coming to you for your expertise. They don’t understand the jargon. Although it can be exciting to use, would you rather have excitement or customers?
What Is Jargon?
Have you ever accessed a medical website that uses medical terminology to give advice? It sounds like they are talking to professional patients, not the general public. Similarly, instructions on how to use a product written for the average buyer by the engineers that designed it are usually too technical to follow. This is why so many people don’t read the instructions that come with a product.
Useful jargon serves to reduce the amount of time needed to explain a concept. For example, “crowdsourcing” replaces “a website where you can hire experts, usually freelancers, looking for assignments,” whereas “URL” just means “website address” – a phrase that’s already easier to understand for the average Internet user. Crowdsourcing is useful, URL is generally not.
Jargon Can Be a Turnoff
How does it affect non-technical visitors to see a lot of jargon on your site? Most likely the same as hearing it in regular life.
I once knew a trainee who memorized and used jargon as often as he could. He made a good impression on his trainers, but as soon as he got a “real” job, he bombed. He couldn’t do the work required, couldn’t be the advisor he was supposed to be, and those who hired him were really ticked off at his trainers.
I once had a boss who spoke only technical jargon. He was supposed to be training me (new to the industry), but I couldn’t understand half of what he said, so I went to others with questions. He felt insulted and our relationship never developed.
Where Jargon Works
Jargon can work, but only on certain sites:
- Industry news sites where the readers are experts in their field.
- Team project sites that are looking for experts to join the team.
- Job placement sites where industrial jargon can attract specialists looking for work.
How to Handle Jargon
Think carefully about who you want to draw to your website:
- If professionals, go ahead with the jargon, but use it carefully. Professionals will write you off quickly if you don’t know what you’re talking about.
- If the general public, coming to you for expertise they don’t have, you’ll want to minimize the jargon and be sure to define its first use.
Also for the general public, have your technical writers create a list of current jargon with definitions to help visitors increase their knowledge. The list could draw visitors preparing themselves for encountering industry jargon, who themselves could turn into customers.
Susette H is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.