Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Revit Terminology

In our early research to document tasks and processes that occur during a building project there was consistent feedback that Revit would occasionally use a novel name in lieu of an established one. In the process of re-mapping hundreds of commands we took the time to step back to ensure command names we used were appropriate. Some of the criteria were:
  • Does it fit the building domain rather than the domain of software?
  • Are we using a less common term over a common one?
  • Does the command accurately reflect what the tool does?

We knew this would force relearning so we took care to focus on those that could clearly be better. Below are some specific cases for illustration:

Internal Consistency
In 2009 when selecting an extruded roof form a tool was displayed in the option bar called “Cut Plan Profile”. This command name was explicit yet...a little clinical perhaps? It also had behavior that was a dead ringer another command named “Vertical Opening”. This replication creates an additional cognitive load recalling two names for a single action. In 2010 the command “Cut Plan Profile” was standardized to “Vertical Opening”.

Reflect the underlying Behavior
Those on large projects will see “Save to Central” was renamed. An early iteration used a term “Publish” which is often used for this behavior but didn’t capture anything new or seem a significantly better choice. After further iterations and internal debate this was later replaced with “Synchronize with Central”. This name more accurately reflects what occurs during the save process. On initiation data is first transferred into the local file from the Central file and then from the local to the Central. The two files are brought in “sync” with each other.

Use commonly known terms
Did you notice the rename of “Resize” to “Scale”? Going way back “Resize” was originally chosen as the command didn’t really scale all aspects of an object. In the case of a wall it would scale the length but not the height or width. Despite this truth the common name for this operation in most other modeling programs is “Scale”. Disqualifying this name because it could not be applied literally on all aspects of an object seemed a technicality. Customers could predict how “scale” would work on richer objects and not using a term they knew almost seemed almost condescending and certainly caused them to pause. To help new users leverage their existing knowledge and improve consistency with other products, including those by Autodesk, the name was changed. The default “RE” keyboard shortcut was maintained to avoid an inconvenience to existing users.

Remove Jargon


When laying out the top level modeling tools we came across the term “Host Sweep”. In 2009 this top level menu contained the tools “Wall Sweep”, “Wall Reveal”, “Fascia”, “Gutter”, and “Slab Edge”. While experienced Revit users were used to the term it was clearly not one you would find in an architectural textbook. We first tried to brainstorm alternative names but given the ability of the tool to place many specific sweep-like elements a single name could not be found. After some iteration the key was in the word “Host” – a generic, and again clinical, term for top level objects in the software (Wall, Floor, Roof etc.) Since each command had a “host” we could distribute these commands under these. “Wall Sweep” was placed under “Wall”, “Fascia” and “Gutter” under “Roof” etc. We tested this organization by assigning specific tasks to customers with a range of Revit experience. Care was taken to avoid using the exact command names in the task goal by providing an image that the customer had to recreate. These tests showed the new organization worked extremely well. A few experienced users paused to look for the original location but then reasoned it out and found the tools in the new location completing the task successfully. After the test we often asked, “When you paused what tool were you looking for?” Most could recall the tools used to be grouped together but could not remember the full menu name “Host Sweep."

Are there additional instances of terms that you think fail the previously mentioned criteria? Can you find more examples of jargon?

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