Home arrow Practices arrow Page 6 - The Importance Of Interface Text (part 2)

Offering Instruction - Practices

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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Instructional text is of two kinds - text that is visible on screen at alltimes (usually at the head of each section) and bubble help orcontext-sensitive help, which appears on specific manual or automatictriggers.

The thing to remember with instructional text is that it is *not* help - itonly aims to assist the user in understanding the immediate effect offilling in a particular form. For more specific details, the user should beguided towards the more detailed help module.

On-screen instructional text is usually an explanatory sentence at thebeginning of the page, with an emphasis on the impending action and itsconsequences. For example, in Web forms asking users for their addresses,the instructional text is usually something like "Please enter your addressto enable us to send you our latest catalog".

Sometimes, a form may be divided into multiple sections. In this case eachsection can have an instructional text message.

The best examples of context-sensitive messages or bubble-help messages arethe tags that appear when you move your mouse over buttons, links and otherclickable elements of the user interface. The aim of such tags is to tellthe user "what will happen when you click this". To this end, they need tobe pithy and direct.

If the tag is on a link, or a button that takes the user to another screen,the message could simply be a statement of what the user will find onclicking it. For example, the tag for the link "Claims Statement" could be:"Snapshot of previous claims".

However, if the bubble help is for a so-called "action button", it needs tostate the action that will occur when the user clicks it. The most commonexample would be the tag for the "Submit" button: "Click Submit to savechanges".

 
 
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