Sunday, August 12, 2007

Stop labeling your assumptions

Writing labels so they can be understood by everyone ...

"Stop labeling your assumptions.

Oh, wait. You don’t know what “labeling your assumptions” means. And that’s exactly my point.

There are loads of input fields and checkboxes and radio buttons on the web right now that lack context. They ask users to do things without explaining what those things mean. Like my statement, “stop labeling your assumptions”. Without context, you have no idea what I’m talking about.

What I mean is that we often make assumptions about how much our users will understand about our applications. We assume a user will know what we mean when we write “Enable checking” next to a checkbox, or “Content file:” next to an input field, or “Refresh” on a button that could apply to either the whole page or a single content area. We assume, and then we label our assumptions.

Right there in the interface, we tell our users that in order to use our software, they have to know things only we know about how it is used. They have to read our minds.

Funny that we so often accuse our users of being the faulty part of the equation, isn’t it?

Here’s how you fix it.

Look at each and every label in your application and ask yourself if someone who had never seen the app before will know what it means. Write a list of all the “No” answers and either change those labels so they’re more meaningful or add instructive elements that explain them (text, screenshot, short video, etc)."    (Continued via    [Usability Resources]


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