Webinars are annoying, ultimately, because we are designed for face to face communication. However, they are extremely useful if your colleagues and customers are ‘global’.

There are many annoying things about webinar tech, but most of them centre on UX. And central to UX is getting your language right.

Webex, as my chosen example, simply didn’t work with a good copywriter when laying out its back-end and webinar UI. I can’t speak for others such as Adobe Connect, as I haven’t used them myself.

I don’t think Webex is attempting to appear natty or complex, using slightly mystifying words or combinations of words. It’s just badly written.

Here are some examples:

Let’s look at the in-webinar UI

The top menu needs work. ‘Communicate’ and ‘Participant’ are both fluffy. 

As far as I’m concerned, ‘Communicate’ should be ‘Audio’ or ‘Sound’. It’s not a counselling session.

And ‘Participant’ should probably be ‘Attendees’.

Now into the setup UI…

  • What does ‘Unlisted Events’ mean? Does it mean ‘Private Events’? (yes).
  • What does ‘Site Events’ mean? Does it mean ‘Events you are hosting?’ (yes).
  • What’s the difference between ‘Site administration’, ‘Event Center’, ‘Meeting Center’ and ‘ My Webex’? 
  • Wouldn’t they be better off as ‘Settings’, ‘Webinar center’, ‘Meeting center’ and ‘Resources’? It’s debatable, but there’s certainly room for improvement.

‘My resources’, ‘User guides’, ‘Downloads’, ‘Training’ – What’s the difference between these?

Downloads of what? What is training? Should they be ‘reporting and recordings’, ‘user documentation/guides’, ‘attendee csvs’, ‘tutorial webinars’? I don’t know but again they can be improved upon.

Plain speak for agencies

At Econsultancy we’ve probably got work to do to make our own language  a little clearer. 

It’s a symptom of media land, there are lots of ways of saying things, and the nature of language is that once a word or term sticks with the majority, it makes sense to adopt it.

Writing without fluff is a great weapon if you have a product worth buying.

You can land on an agency or vendor’s site, and take several minutes trying to find out what exactly it is they do. 

Those that have shunned consultant-speak look far better than their competition.

One example I’ve seen lately springs to mind: a design agency.

Teehan Lax

Here’s some of the plain speak from its website.

‘We help clients bring digital products and services to market’

‘..if it has a screen we will design for it’

‘Tools – we make things to help you make things’

‘See what we do’

‘Things we’ve made’

‘See what we did for the Globe and Mail – Maybe you have a site that has grown tired and people have stopped using it. We do a lot of redesign work and help clients get the next version of their sites, apps or software working.’

Plain speak leaves lots of space free, which is key for a design company to create a clean look and include examples of their work. And plain speak shows that the company in question is confident of their proposition – in this case, designing for screens. 

Yes, there’s a danger that this plain speak can become twee, and for agencies specialising in communication the danger here is greatest. 

Ok, perhaps it’s easiest for design companies to get copywriting right.

Striking a balance 

Tag management, as a very different example, can feel a little abstract to some people. Simplifying the complex technology and making the idea of tag management snackable is a difficult proposition.

Patronising and mystifying the audience are the undesirable ends of the scale. In the middle sits simple explanation. 

On this page TagMan does a decent job of keeping it simple, whilst leaving enough there to hint at the sophistication of its platforms and technology. 

SAAS software is now sold transparently without copy designed to shield the product and direct the customer to ‘an agent’. 

There are many examples of the bunkum gradually leaching from our industry. Let’s hope webinar tech follows suit and gets a fresh face.