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Rethinking the Term "Users"

by Tom Johnson on Jul 27, 2007 •
categories: technical-writing

Josh Bernoff and Charlene LiJosh Bernoff wrote an intriguing post (titled "I'm sick of users") about why we should avoid the term "users." Josh says,

Nobody talks about users of dishwashers, or users of retail stores, or users of telephones. So why are we talking about "users" of computers, browsers, and software?

Try, just for a day, to stop using this word. You'll be amazed at how differently you think about the world.

Web users become people looking for information.

Application users become employees trying to get stuff done.

Users of your Web site become customers.

I tend to agree. After reading the post, I was talking to someone who mentioned their "users," and I had to laugh a little. When I hear the term, I now think of a drug user or some other addictive person.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.

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