Language

Stopwords in the user interface

These are words that usually signal problems with the user interface.

Main and secondary

Variants: regular, general, basic, advanced, extended, miscellaneous, more
Examples: main section, basic options, advanced plan, miscellaneous settings

The line between “primary” and “secondary” is not defined. The user is looking for a particular thing and has no idea whether it’s “main” or “advanced”. “More” is usually a graveyard of elements that the designer didn’t find place for.

Useful

Variants: important, notable
Examples: useful hints, important information, notable changes

When you nominate some stuff important, this means all the rest is unimportant. Instead of stating the usefulness, explain the benefit: “How to start snowboarding”.

Article

Variants: post, entry, publication
Examples: add entry, next post

These, again, name the type of the content. The words can be useful among the editorial staff, but meaningless for the reader: there are no newspapers with an “articles” section.

Catalogue

Variants: list, archive
Examples: shoes catalogue, news archive

There’s no need to signal that a list is following. Just put the list with an informative heading: “Shoes”, “News”.

Click here

Variants: enter, select, go, follow, open, launch
Examples: click here to open, enter password, select country, follow the link

There is no need to explain how to use buttons, links, input fields and other standard user interface elements. Links should just name the places they lead to: “iPhone 7 review”. Form fields should just name the content: “Password”, “Country”.

Form

Examples: application form, inquiry form

A form is a table of fields to fill. The word “form” just names a type of screen, but the user already sees that it’s a form. Name it with the benefit in mind: “Job application: designer”.

Required

Variants: necessary, must, please
Examples: required field, you must agree, please specify the phone number

The user doesn’t care if a field is required. If the form doesn’t work without it, they will put in some garbage. Instead of demanding or begging, explain the benefit: “We will call to coordinate delivery time”.

Operation

Variants: process, transaction, request, step, state, module, function, data
Examples: process is not responding, bad request, step 5 of 12, module not installed, wrong data format

These words are handy to describe how something works technically. But there is no point in using them in the user interface: they just complicate the matters for the user. Write as a human being: “Spell check available in paid version”, “Due to an error, the app needs to re-open”.

Authorisation

Variants: authentication, authentification, identification, session, limit
Examples: please authorise, session timeout

Even programmers mix up the autho-whatever-s constantly. Use the verbs “to enter” or “to sign in”, or, even better, name the thing that’s inside: “Shopping history”.

Success

Example: operation completed successfully

If operation hasn’t completed successfully, it hasn’t completed, period. Write what’s been done: “Money sent”, “Update installed”.

If you know why a particular word from this list is not good, but in your case it makes perfect sense, leave it.

Jul 4   language   user interface

Why I don’t call myself a “UI/UX” designer

Many of the things I do are considered a job of a “UI/UX” designer. But I haven’t ever called myself one.

That’s because the term “UI/UX” is badly designed: it’s tasteless and vague.

Tasteless

The abbreviations are used in science and tech, but when normal people talk, abbreviations are out of place. A good user interface is humane.

The way this abbreviation is constructed is wacky. First, it includes the word “user” twice. The good designer would not put a word twice where once would suffice. Second, it abbreviates “experience” with X instead of E. This comes from cheap marketing, where X used to sound “cool” and “trendy”. When a designer uses it, I feel like they disrespect the user and have shallow knowledge.

Vague

There’s a “/” in the middle, whose meaning is unclear. A slash usually implies an exclusive or. So does this mean “UI or UX, but not both”?

Good writers use conjunctions, not slashes. A slash is a way to slam two pieces together without thinking what sense the combination makes. This is not how you design a good user interface though.

The lack of taste and inability to communicate well are not the qualities of a good designer.

See also: Guy English on UX

2017   design   language   myself   work