User Interface Guidelines

Today on Language Log, there is a post about unintelligible buttons. That is, command buttons that don’t appear to answer whatever question their host dialog box is asking.

It is a simple matter of the semantics of English that “Do you want to allow the new version access?” has exactly two appropriate answers, and neither of them requires the lexeme change for its expression. The two answers are (1) “Yes (I do want to allow the new version access)”, and (2) “No (I don’t want to allow the new version access)”. Neither of those meanings is expressed either by “Don’t Change” or by “Change All”. The dialog box is incoherent. That’s a purely linguistic observation, and will not be altered by my coming to know which button to click. The message in that box will baffle every user — or at least, those users who are not baffled have not been paying attention. It is a disgracefully and needlessly unfriendly misfeature.

Later, another author responds saying that “yes” and “no” as button labels aren’t appropriate according to some user interface guidelines. Then he goes on to list some links to those guidelines, which I list here:

Apple Human Interface Guideline for Controls
KDE User Interface Guideline
The Gnome Journal

Interesting reads, all.

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