[thelist] Re: UI Standards

Shashank Tripathi sub at shanx.com
Thu Aug 1 01:32:01 CDT 2002

Hi Tim,

We touch upon a subjective issue, which is thus vulnerable to opinionated
flaming. Please note that I intend to disagree agreeably.

    > Compare:
    > Do you want to save changes to Document1?
    > Yes No Cancel
    > vs
    > Unsaved changes in file:
    > Cancel Don't Save Save

I actually prefer the first, because I am "used" to seeing those buttons. It
always asks me YES/NO/CANCEL, where as the second style would expect me to
OPEN/CANCEL"...and so on for different functions, which would mean a lot
more cognitive processing to essentially do the same thing.

Besides, any particular reason why "CANCEL" should be the first button? Sort
of like those absolutely useless "RESET" buttons on web forms which I
sometimes click unintentionally but then have to painfully refill the whole
form (or just abandon the form altogether).

This issue perhaps gets especially tricky if you consider global user target
base without spending too much on localization of software. I would suspect
that the percentage of people who comprehend, and are comfortable with,
YES/NO/CANCEL is *much* higher than those who would understand phrases -
contextual or otherwise.

    > Where this really gets fun is when you get convoluted things like:
    > "The values you have enterered are sub-optimal do you wish to change
    > them?  If you want to leave them as they are press No."
    > Yes No Cancel

THis is an unrepresentative example. Similarly convoluted examples could be
composed for the Apple way of presentation as well. IMHO, instead of having
totally different button text for each different function ("contextual"?),
the focus should be on making the error/info messages simple and concise.

E.g., for the above example, (and note that the term "sub-optimal" could be
relevant in some settings for a message, in a financial or industrial
modeling tool):

    The values you entered are not optimal. Confirm save?

    > ((This is the same logic that gave us the START button to
    >    logout/powerdown/shutdown.))

Again, this must be subjective, but two things:

1. I can replace the word "START" with any word I like in the registry
(although admittedly regedit manhandling is inaccesible to large portion of
Windows users, I would think).

2. In any case, when one starts a computer, START is a good cue about where
to start. IMHO, it is a better cue than an apple icon -- which btw does not
indicate SHUTDOWN in any way either. Also, while we are on the subject, I
prefer my taskbar to be at the bottom of the screen than the top, although
this could be a matter of acclimitization.

    > As opposed to a much better UI which would state:
    > "The values appear to be incorrect, what would you like to do:"
    > Cancel Enter Different Values Use Values As Entered

See above. Please note that the words "suboptimal" and "incorrect" are
different in connotation, so either your example was a little extreme or
just inappropriate. But again, taking this example, I believe it would be
much simpler to say (and code, and maintain, and use, and re-use...)

    The values are incorrect. Continue save?

Simple error message, is consistent across my whole OS so DIFFERENT
applications still look and feel similar, less time needed to read the
action buttons and decide which one to click, and this is much more usable
internationally as YES/NO/CANCEL are well understood terms where as phrases
arguably do not enjoy the same priviledge.

If your suggested method becomes a "standard", it will lead to applications
that have buttons like

    If you don't save your text, your changes will be gone forever!
    Do you wish to save the text to disk?


(Reference: Editpad Classic, www.editpadclassic.com)

"You bet" is not very well understood in these parts of the world, is in
fact socially irritating to many, but would still perhaps fall within the
boundaries of the "NEXTSTEP" conventions.

Would love to hear others' thoughts. Interesting topic.


Shashank Tripathi

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