I am in a situation where we have been told our users do not understand the word 'filter' and we have to use the word 'search' instead.

The functions, though, literally are filters by definition: dropdowns that filter out an already populated table, and not searches. We also have things that are searches that are also labelled 'searches'

I am having a lot of internal resistance to, in my mind, mis-labelling functionality. Things should be labelled what they are, and if not, the users will not learn what is not that difficult. But maybe the distinction is not one that the lay-person should care about.

It is an internal site, so the users are not 'the public at large' and are used to doing things in particular ways. Nonetheless, I hate the idea of mislabelling things and they like to search for things.

I guess my specific question is -- should we care about accuracy of terminology in what the user is seeing? Does the user experience of this particular site for these particular users trump the user's opportunity to potentially better understand interfaces in general?

  • If your users don't understand a term, it's not necessarily your job to educate them on what you think is the correct terminology. Your only job is to provide a rich, intuitive experience. Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 16:12
  • 2
    i'm surprised this is an issue... Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 18:09
  • 1
    When you refer to "localized situations" are you referring to language localization, or "the people that sit in that part of the office"? Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 18:29
  • perhaps show those people this: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/4752/… Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 23:10

2 Answers 2


One should simply not use the same term for items that are not the same. Users will not understand why they get different functionality between the two instances of the term.

Filtering functionality is not uncommon in apps, so many users will understand the term. For those who don't, are tooltips possible for the control, or explanatory text in the UI?


Gay or not?

He looks sooooo gay:

A photo of Enrique Iglesias

You probably gathered that by gay I mean homosexual. But had it been the 1940s, you would probably think: "This guy doesn't look light-hearted at all! I don't know what you're talking about!"

As the dictionary explains:

Gay meaning ‘homosexual’ became established in the 1960s as the term preferred by homosexual men to describe themselves.

An eggplant or an aubergine?

What is this:

A photo of an aubergine (eggplant)

What do words mean?

My point is that the meaning of a word is largely defined by:

  • its context within a sentence.
  • its common usage within a culture or society.

Ignorance is bliss

One of the first thing us UXers need to do is to cast-off the false-consensus bias. Regardless of how unreasonable things may seem to us, it is our role to research what users need and expect, and work by that.

So if you have a solid proof that indeed this is what users expect, that what you should go with.

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