Words with Friends

by | Feb 4, 2019

Why Your Company Needs a Controlled Vocabulary

Have you ever considered how Facebook has completely changed the way people use the word “like”? It’s not just a verb anymore—the word now has a completely different context in the social media sphere.   

Different industries and organizations have unique ways of defining and using words and phrases. It’s part of what makes transitioning from one job to another so difficult. Language is more than just words—it’s how, when, and why we use (and don’t use) them. This act of choosing the language we use is defined as ontology.   


What is a controlled vocabulary, and why should you have one? 

It’s important for organizations to document their ontology and internal definitions to communicate effectively. These definitions of what a word means, what it doesn’t mean, and when/how it should be used all come together to create an organization’s controlled vocabulary.   

Part of Facebook’s controlled vocabulary is that the word “like” can be used as both a verb and a noun. Other examples of controlled vocabulary utilization are more readily apparent to the public—think Starbucks’ usage of “tall,” “grande,” and “venti” rather than the traditional “small,” “medium,” and “large.” Communicating and implementing a controlled vocabulary doesn’t just help the individuals within an organization, but it extends to all their customers and associates as well.   

When creating a controlled vocabulary, it’s important to closely examine communications and really analyze where breakdowns are occurring. You can get started by asking yourself:  

  • Are there “legacy” terms that have stuck around for years that need to be re-evaluated?   
  • Are there “inside” terms that are inconsistent with the industry or unclear to people outside the organization?   
  • Is there any unnecessary duplication? You should not have multiple words that mean the same thing. This only leads to confusion.

What are some of the words in Graphcom’s controlled vocabulary?

Here’s a sample of some of the words our team has added to our unified vocabulary!


Definition & Rules

Myths, Synonyms & History

Related Terms

Information Architecture

As an object: The way we arrange the parts of something to make it understandable as a whole

As a practice: The act of deciding how the pieces of a whole should be arranged to best communicate to intended users.

  • Can be abbreviated as IA, never I.A.
  • Not to be used as a pronoun (capitalized)

This term has been overly associated with website navigation and menu design.

This term is often synonymized with user experience (UX) design or information design.

Taxonomy, Ontology, Choreography, Structure, Language

Landing Page

In digital marketing, a landing page is a standalone web page created specifically for the purposes of a marketing or advertising campaign. It’s where a visitor “lands” when they have clicked on a Google AdWords ad or email message, for example. The primary purpose of a landing page is to create conversions.

Often, this term is incorrectly used when referencing web pages that exist within a website.




A prototype is a presentation of the UI and UX of a website. The fidelity level of the prototype is dependent upon the level of depth displayed.

  • A low-fidelity prototypeis a rough presentation of the design (wireframe)—grayscale, high-level, focused on information and overall layout. This should be facilitator-driven, not just given without explanation.
  • A medium-fidelity prototype has refined design but with a lot of open questions or things that aren’t figured out yet. It may be semi-functional but not fully.
  • A high-fidelity prototype has a finalized UI, interactivity, and UX has been explored, and it is ready for user testing or client presentation.

This word has been avoided altogether or used only when describing a high-fidelity prototype created in AdobeXD. Instead, words like “Comp,” “Mockup,” or “Design” have been used. These words should be avoided.

Synonyms: (For low-fidelity) Wireframe


User testing,

User journey,


Thought Leader

An individual or organization that is recognized as one of the top authorities within their area of specialization. In other words, a thought leader is a go-to expert within their industry. (Check out this blog post to learn more!)

This is an industry power word that not many people fully understand the meaning of or how to become one.

Thought leadership, Industry knowledge, Industry expert, Industry leader

User Experience

The interaction/experience that a user has with an interface. The experience includes the user’s journey and all their interactions with the product.

From a planning perspective, the user experience is typically defined in wireframes, but every aspect of the web design and development process—from wireframing, to copywriting, to design to programming—affects the user experience.

  • Can be abbreviated UX, never U.X.

UX is not synonymous with UI, and these two words should never be used interchangeably. UI is the interface, and UX is the experience of using the interface.


User journey, Interaction


Need help creating your own controlled vocabulary? Let’s chat. Call or email us today!

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