Would an English-speaking but non-technical audience be familiar with the terms URL (in the sense of link, web address) and GUI (Graphical User Interface), for example in a manual aimed at end users?

If not, are there alternatives to GUI for referring to "the part of the program you can see and interact with, including content, menus, buttons etc."?

Or is it perhaps better to just refer to a GUI as "the program", since there is no visible distinction between the program and the GUI for the person using it?


6 Answers 6


No. "Normal people" won't understand these terms. Thats my experience from user training.

Some alternatives could be : Graphical User Interface, User Interface , Program Interface, Program Screen, Program Window. Also you can replace program with application if you think that would sound better for your audience.

URL could be link, web link, web address, internet address, network address

Also as you are writing a manual, you might as well use these terms and include a glossary

  • 1
    URL is becoming a quite known term. I'll ask somebody's grandmother if she knows what it means. (I'm assuming that somebody's grandmother qualifies as normal person.)
    – b.roth
    Sep 15, 2010 at 17:14
  • I'm actually abnormal in that I'm technologically inept compared to most people I know, but I still know what a URL is...but that might be from reading Penny Arcade. I also know what a UI is, but GUI caught me up.
    – kitukwfyer
    Sep 15, 2010 at 19:17
  • 3
    "Graphical User Interface, User Interface , Program Interface" I'm pretty sure Joe Normal has no idea what these mean either.
    – moioci
    Sep 15, 2010 at 21:47
  • 2
    @kitukwfyer, you're on the internet and you managed to sign up to this website and comment. You do not qualify as technologically inept. Sorry :)
    – Benjol
    Sep 16, 2010 at 5:10
  • @moioci Apart from graphical user interface (too clunky), the other 2 terms can be understood by anyone with a simple english dictionary, even if they dont speak english
    – Midhat
    Sep 16, 2010 at 6:52

Normal people might now know these words. In the case of GUI I have to wonder why you would use the word at all; is there any other UI the user might also be using, that is non-graphical? It's probably best to refer to "the program" or specific items in the GUI such as particular menus or dialogs.

For URL a lot of people probably know it but you could say "link" or "address". Or define the URL in the introduction to the sections that use it.

First, copy the website's address (the URL) to your clipboard by pressing CTRL-C...

Then you can use the word URL later on (include it in a glossary, maybe?)

Snarky side-note: will "normal people" even read this help text or manual? :)

  • 2
    "Will 'normal people' even read it?" Probably not, but it still simplifies your response to support email :) Sep 15, 2010 at 16:14
  • there are a variety of UIs that can be used... command-line, graphical, web, thick-client, flash, etc
    – warren
    Sep 16, 2010 at 2:17
  • 1
    @warren: Yes, in general there are many UIs. But what end-user manual ever needs to refer to more than one? If your application comes with two UIs then you need to define terms (like GUI, CLI, etc) so the reader can understand the context, but most programs have one UI and it doesn't matter if it's G or C or W or whatever. Sep 16, 2010 at 14:51

URL is significantly more commonly recognized than GUI, but there are many "normal people" who are fairly clueless as to both of them.


Only confirming what others (and yourself) have said.

Far more people will understand web address than URL.

Or is it perhaps better to just refer to a GUI as "the program", since there is no visible distinction between the program and the GUI for the person using it?

Yes, yes, yes. For the vast majority of non-technical users, this is very obviously the case. the GUI is the program.


The company I work work publish a web site used by the building trade. Think submitting quotes for jobs with 7 or more zeros at the end. Our trainers are constantly surprised that some of our users never use a computer. They have zero knowledge about things like logging into a web site or even the basics of navigation.

In short, The technical knowledge of 'normal people' can range from absolute zero or reasonably proficient.

  • Even more disturbing than people who don't use computers at all is the number of people who do use them but in incredibly clueless and inefficient ways... such as not being aware of "copy and paste" or not knowing that you can scroll past the first screen of a web page
    – BlueWhale
    Jun 10, 2011 at 19:08

A lot of technical or so called technical do not know meanings of these words.
Samples for word like SQL or CSS if you write out full word there is a huge chance to be misunderstanding.

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