Home arrow Practices arrow The Importance Of Interface Text (part 2)

The Importance Of Interface Text (part 2)

In this concluding article, read about the specific things to bekept in mind when creating interface text for menus, windows, buttons,fields and application messages, and also find out how to design interfacetext for easy internationalization of your application.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:
  1. The Importance Of Interface Text (part 2)
  2. Brass Tacks
  3. The Screening Process
  4. Playing The Field
  5. When Things Go Bad...
  6. Offering Instruction
  7. Better Safe Than Sorry
  8. Globe-trotting
By: Deepa L, (c) Melonfire
Rating: starstarstarstarstar / 3
March 26, 2003

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Having set the tone (in the previous segment of this article) for usingdomain knowledge to its utmost for the interface text, we now come tocertain accepted principles to be able to develop intuitive and indicativetext.

While there are certain characteristics for each of the interface textcomponents, the following are basic guidelines to be followed at all times:
  1. Conform to norms: There is usually never a need to reinvent the wheelwhen defining interface labels or commands - many common interface elementsalready have accepted nomenclature, and using it reduces the users'learning curve drastically.

  2. Be consistent: 'Tis said that consistency is the hobgoblin of littleminds...but when it comes to interface text, consistency is critical to theuser experience. Consistency here includes consistency in:
    • Naming conventions - for example, if your screen titles are prefixed withthe action they enable ("Edit Address"), ensure that all screens are titledin that manner.

    • Usage - if you use "Done" or "Save" to denote submission, do not shift to"Submit" in some screens.

    • Tone - if the tone of your instructional text is direct but formal, donot shift to using exclamatory and "Yes, you've got it right!"-typestatements.

    • Font - decide the styles to be used for denoting titles, labels, messagesand instructional text and use them consistently.


  3. Mind your caps: Capitalization may be of two kinds, title case andsentence case. In title case, each word starts with a capital letter,except for prepositions and words smaller than four characters. In sentencecase, the first word and proper nouns start with capitals. The norm is touse title case for labels and titles, and sentence case for instructionaltext and messages.

  4. Be pithy: Each piece of text should be aimed at giving the user thatamount of information that is necessary - not more, and not less. Fortitles and labels, limit yourself to three words, whereas for messages andinstructional text, staccato one-liners or even fragments of sentences willsuffice.

    Similarly, the messages need to be crisp. Instead of "Your attempt to savethe address has failed. Would you like to try again?", you can also say"Save attempt failed. Try again?"

    Of course, don't take it to extremes - the old DOS-style "Abort? Retry?Fail?" would be pushing it a bit.

  5. Be sensitive to language: Try to avoid getting caught up in programminglingo. It is easy to get caught up in what the system does at the back-end,and to try and bring that out in the interface text. For example, on asearch screen, if the user needs to select a parameter that the databasewill parse or filter against, do not label the field "Select SearchFilter", since the term "filter" may not be very intuitive to a lay user.



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