The complications of watches and languagePosted July 5th, 2010 by David Hamill
You probably speak a different language to that of your customers. It might be a subtle difference but it probably does exist. Your website will have a better chance of serving your customers if you’re aware of it. In this post I’ll discuss how the use of the word complications caused a lot of confusion.
A recent article in Neuromarketing discussed when complicated is good. The author argued that people sometimes want complexity. I don’t agree with the author but that’s not really important. The problem is that his argument is based upon his own misunderstanding of the word complication when used in this context.
In the article the author explains that Blancpain uses the term complications as a marketing device to illustrate that their watches are very intricate time pieces with lots of little cogs. However in the comments section of the article, somebody points out that complications is actually a term used in horology (the science of measuring time) to mean features.
The author responds, thanking the commenter and says “instead of brilliant marketing Blancpain is merely using jargon unlikely to be understood by non-horologists? Either way, I think it works for them “.
I disagree, it doesn’t work for them and it was never brilliant marketing. I think the word complication is a hindrance to the site’s users. The author’s own misunderstanding of the site has led him to write an article with a redundant argument.
Translating for your customers
Blancpain has used the term complications because this is what it calls the features of a watch. However it would be a mistake to assume the users of the site will understand it. If the author of that article misunderstood it, what chance does a passing web user have?
Baffling people with jargon is never a good idea on a website. Especially when that jargon is used on the site’s navigation menu.
Choosing your words
If Blancpain knew their key users understood such terms (high-end watch retailers for example) then using such a word would be fine. The users would know what complications meant in this context and using such a term would be consistent with the tone of a high-end watchmaker.
However, it’s unlikely that someone who is simply looking for an expensive watch to buy for their husband/wife will understand the term. The use of the word complication will be unhelpful to these people. In fact it’ll probably obstruct many of them from choosing a watch.
So this leaves the owner of the website with a dilemma. Do they use the industry term or a simple term like features?
Like many design decisions, there are winners and losers regardless of which decision you take. Judging by the site content, it looks like the site is aimed at the end customer. But this doesn’t mean that end customers are the primary users. It may just have been a guess on the part of the web team. The primary users could be those with a better understanding of horology speak.
If in doubt, opt for simplicity
If you’ve researched your web users then you’ll know a bit about who’s using your site, what they want and what they know. In which case you’ll know the type of language you should be using. In the absence of this information, you’re basically guessing. In which case I’d recommend choosing simple words over industry speak.
People are normally unlikely to object to simple explanations as long as they aren’t patronising. Horologists won’t care a great deal that you’ve said features instead of complications on a website like this. But the word complications is an obstruction to the watch buying public.
What would you do?
In the absence of reliable research on the users of the Blancpain website, I’d use the term watch features instead of complications . Why not leave a comment explaining the approach you’d take and why?