When I was a kid, everybody knew someone who added ‘fuel injection technician’ to their secondary school CV – as a joke. How we’d laugh at how ridiculous it was to call yourself something that sounded so ‘exotic’ but in fact was quite straightforward. People are still doing this today with their web content and they’re doing it intentionally. If you’re calling your case studies ‘customer master classes’ or your services page ‘deliverables defined’, you may well be alienating some very important people – your target audience.
When it comes to your website copy, straight talking means less confusion…and less confusion means greater engagement.
There are lots of good reasons why you should use words in written communications that everybody recognises. But there are business reasons why you must do this on your website.
- Your readers are task-oriented and are coming to your website to do one or a number of specific things. In order to carry out their task, they’re looking for a degree of familiarity. A clear navigation with clearly defined menus using Plain English is what they are after. It allows them to calmly work through the site finding the information they need.
- Things happen very fast online. Your target audience might be busy scanning up to one or two email addresses, Twitter, Facebook and more, simultaneously – as well as scanning through your web content. This frenzied environment leads to a little less patience and a lower tolerance level than usual. Being anything less than direct will simply not do you justice.
- Primary language – what about people for whom English is not their first language? What does Google Translate do with your newly-made mouthful? Ireland is now home to hundreds of thousands of people from every corner of the world who work every day using their second language – don’t make things unnecessarily difficult for them.
“But that’s the language my customers expect to see, that’s how they talk…” you might argue. Unless you have solid quantitative and qualitative research to back up a hunch like that, it seems like too big a risk. The only possible thing you have to gain in this situation is to sound different, to differentiate yourself from the competition.
And that is a fair goal for any marketer. But how you differentiate yourself will help the buyer make their decision… not simply because you are/seem different.
There is a time and a place for making up words and phrases. Doing it in a controlled environment in-house or even doing it online but ensuring it is explained straight away… is fine. Placing it along your website’s top navigation, drop-down menus or as a link to another page is not a good idea.
Let’s call a spade a spade – if you are using words on your site menu or design that your target audience needs to think about for a moment….you are not doing yourself any favours.
And if you’re under 30, you may want to ask somebody what a ‘fuel-injection technician’ is…because I haven’t seen one in a while…