Dealing with jargon

Paul Boag

Anybody that has worked with me for any time will know how I hate with a passion the use of jargon on a web site. How then do you deal with those pesky acronyms and meaningless product names when there is no other way around them?

I am sure you are all aware that if a web designer has done his job right you can roll over an image and it should display a short description in a little “tool tip” next to your cursor. What you might not know however is that you can use this technique on pretty much any part of your page using a TITLE tag.

Try it for yourself. Roll your cursor over the following word:“Headscape”

As you can see you get a description in just the same way as you would an image. Of course the problem is that you would have no way of knowing you could do that unless I had told you. However with a bit of basic styling it should now be more obvious:


This easily allows you to communicate more detailed information on key phrases without sending the user off to a separate glossary page. The downside is that not all users may work out what the next style of link does and so it is important to explain it somewhere prominent on the site.

A last note of caution however, this is not an excuse to fill your site with meaningless jargon! It is still better to avoid terms that your users will not understand rather than force them to look up every word they do not understand.