Naming things in an enterprise setting for a Web audience

by Uche Ogbuji

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Despite all the resources they have for public communications, large organizations often have even more trouble than small ones in customer-friendly communications. This is because they have a distinct culture which is not usually shared by the majority of customers, and also because short-term business priorities often leak into longer-term considerations such as how we want the audience to fundamentally think about products and services.

Kristen Harris is Fourthought's client contact/manager as we consult to Sun Microsystems, and she has led us in a number of projects in which we've tried to make sure names used in data models truly represent the essence of the product and service information we're modeling. By putting this much care into the foundational data models, clean and clear labels rise to the top for use in Web communications. The desired result is when customers needn't be "in the know" in order to quickly glean what they need form Web content. Incidentally, the backbone of the data modeling we're involved in is Sun's XML, RDF and Web services-based system, SwoRDFish, which I have mentioned here in the past.

I am always going on about the importance of names in data models (e.g. see here and here), but as Kristen indicates, effective naming in an enterprise setting is more easily said than done. The important thing is that Web publishing professionals never stop trying.

Please share your own experiences with names and labels for customer communications.