Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Product Names--
I was helping my wife this weekend brush our dog's teeth. Yes, that's the level of quiet desperation my weekends have gotten to. She brushed and I held. As it was, the dog was pretty calm throughout--probably helped by the fact that it was chicken-flavored toothpaste--so I thought I would read the instructions on the toothpaste bottle, if nothing else as a professional courtesy to the technical writer who had authored them. (A dying profession indeed, Jared Spool, may doggie breath afflict thee all thy days!)

Actually, they were pretty useful, even including a tip to let the dog taste the toothpaste first before going in with a glob on the included brush/finger-mitten. The only problem was that the marketing department had apparently insisted that the writer use the full product name when referring to the toothpaste--and it was a looooonnng name. Seriously, it wrapped half-way around the bottle. Something like PetProper Canine Oral Hygiene Conditioning Paste. I had to read that three times in one paragraph, each time having to rotate the bottle to take it all in.

I'm having a similar problem at work, we have to reference our product in our Help topics, because they are shared with a larger Help file, and the reader needs to know what product each topic refers to. I understand, but why do product names have to be so big? I won't even tell you about the full name, but the SHORT name is going to force users still on 800 x 600 to scroll horizontally!

Here's the answer. We've all seen the cavemen guys on the Geico commercials, right? These guys are pretty articulate, but they're still cavemen. So they would be masters of monosyllabic speech. Marketing should hire the cavemen guys to name our products. That way, we would have names like "Ug" and "Mook." Easy to type; easy to read.

Or we could tell marketing that Help readers have already bought the product and ask them to give us easier substitutes.

Personally, I'm holding out for the Geico cavemen.

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