I am working with an organization that is redesigning software created roughly 15 years ago. At the time the software was very technical, with form labels that exactly match database column titles (ex: Dev_Cmd for Device Commands) and selections or buttons titled to exactly match the name of the service being called (ex: CallHistC() for Call History Command).

As we redesign the software, we believed it would be important to have more user-friendly terms for these various titles and commands. We brought this up with our Customer Support team and met resistance to this change; they insist users know these terms and the user-friendly terminology would cause confusion and may be ambiguous.

Is it a mistake to change terminology if a current customer base is familiar with it?

What is the best way to determine if "plain word" terminology would be an advantage or disadvantage for users? I would like to avoid change resistance and I'm concerned a customer survey would be skewed toward expert users.

  • 1
    I think you need to go back to your customer support team and figure out how they know users (all? some?) would not want this change. Testing is key here.
    – Mark Bubel
    Aug 27, 2016 at 17:35

1 Answer 1


I believe it ultimately depends on who is going to be using this software. Though your Customer Support team insists that your main users are already familiar with the terms, is it impossible to imagine that you may get new users at one point? Ones that aren't familiar with the old terminology?

With that in mind, I don't think it's a mistake to change the terminology if you guide all of your users. Something that caters to both the current customer base as well as a first-time user. Maybe something like this:

Label suggestion to assist current and new users

or this:

Tooltip suggestion for old labels

You could even have a transition period where both labels show, and then gradually remove all remnants of the older terminology. This all depends on your customer base.

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