— 29 September 2004 —

Bad Copy and Misused Jargon Makes Matthew Something Something

A press release on Yahoo!, in the guise of a business article, does a really good job of confusing me. Here’s a tip or two…

  1. If your copy sucks, people will think your product or service sucks, too.
  2. If you want to tell people about the usability of your product or service, make sure you are actually talking about usability.

Sucky Copy Example

ImageScore, an image quality analysis solution designed specifically for financial institutions, analyzes scanned images of checks to verify the quality of a check image. Additionally, it ensures the image is an acceptable payment instrument for financial institutions and verifies that the images conform to the quality and usability criteria defined by the X9.37 standards committee.

A leading problem banks will face in the emerging Check 21 environment is loss of transaction data if the paper check is destroyed before the information is accurately captured as an electronic image.

This isn’t a press release. It is a customer communiqué. Acceptable payment instrument? X9.37 standards committee? Emerging Check 21 environment? I have no idea what these mean. If I were a financial services “specialist” perhaps. But as a general consumer poking around some business news items? Um, no.

It’s Quality Control People

In addition to the quality tests, ImageScore also has the ability to analyze the usability of an image. It can accurately identify whether a data field is missing, such as signature, date, payment information and CAR (the courtesy amount on the check). As a result, banks are able to avoid financial liability caused by passing along unusable images, as well as avoid delays with presentment, clearing and settlement caused by illegible information on check images. The solution immediately identifies unusable images received from other banks or image exchanges, significantly reducing a bank’s operational and labor costs.

Again, we have copy issues (“presentment” = jargon). But specifically here is the usability issue. This is not about usability. Usability Testing would ask, “Does the system of work allow for the work to be done quickly and without errors?” Quality Control would ask, “Was the work done in the time it should take and what was the amount and severity of the errors.” It is a fine line, but there is a difference.

Shorter difference: Will it? vs. did it?

There is a correlation between Usability Testing and Quality Control, just as there is a correlation between UCD and Quality Assurance. But in the case of this press release, they are misunderstanding what is usability, and not understanding what is quality. Most people reading this press release won’t notice the flaws; most won’t care. The problem for me is that I see these small issues and know that they are representative of larger issues with the company, Mitek Systems, Inc. What must their development process be like? What must their management be like to let a press release like this out the door?

Oh, and another thing: press releases are anachronistic. Stop using them. Start a blog to promote your product or service.

This harangue was brought to you by the letters B and L, and the number 37.

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