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Shared Lexicon

Our research team showcased Dovetail to our team this week. I’m looking forward to spending more time with the product, but something mostly unrelated to the product stood out in their demo.

While walking us through the tool they kept having to specify that some of the words they were using meant different things in Dovetail than it might in other contexts. Words like Insights or Reports have a specific meaning in something like Dovetail, that may not directly translate to the initial idea that pops into your head when thinking of those words.

When working with large teams that have varying levels of experience or knowledge with different tools or workflows it becomes more and more important to have a shared vocabular, preferably one that is defined and referenceable, so that everyone on a team or in a meeting understands what they’re discussing in the same way.

Speaking the Same Language

The simplest way to go about creating this shared vocabulary is to take some time to document these words. It may not be the flashy design work that winds up winning awards, or being the star piece of a portfolio, but it’s no less critical to the production of great work.

In the same way that design teams create personas for reference when discussing specific users, this glossary is a reference document that outlines and defines what works mean when used within specific contexts.

A great example of this is the word Report, depending on the team, tools, and processes in use, a report could be any number of things. As stated above, a report in Dovetail is a specific organizational artifact, in an analytics tool like Pendo a report is a detailed summary of a set of queries or actions. When talking to Customer Support or Sales teams a report could be a written document that outlines additional user wants or needs.

Speaking the same language allows us to ensure that everyone is on the same page when having conversations around what is important. When we understand the details at every step of the product development process we can make decisions faster, and avoid rework because of a miscommunication.

Adam Sedwick

I work on Design systems and Advocate for Accessibility on the web.



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