How to name your service

When approaching a problem or something you need to do, you start with a goal in mind, rather than the service you need to access or the tool you need to do the job. As Theodore Levitt (an economist and professor at Harvard Business School) said:

People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole!

Naming services and designing them from the perspective of the users’ need is essential; not only in ensuring that users can achieve what they are trying to do, but also that they can access the service in the first place.

This is a principle that GDS (Government Digital Service) have really taken seriously, and they’re renaming many of their services to prove it.

Image reading: Good services are verbs, bad services are nounsExamples of renamed services:

Before: ‘Individual Electoral Registration System.’
After: ‘Register to vote’

Before: ‘Fee remission’
After: ‘Get help with court fees’

In GDS style, they have also shared a list of guidelines for creating good service names, and whilst these are obviously government focussed, many are applicable regardless of industry.

Good service names:

  • use the words users use
  • are based on analytics and user research
  • describe a task, not a technology
  • don’t need to change when policy or technology changes
  • are verbs, not nouns
  • don’t include government department or agency names
  • aren’t brand-driven or focused on marketing

Designing and naming services effectively is dependent on having a foundation of good quality user research. We take this seriously at Bunnyfoot and work with many companies to design services around their users.

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