Sunday, May 15, 2005

If you’d like to redo and discard, click NO (huh?):

Have you ever experienced a computer message box like this: It asks you a question, offers you some standard choices like OK and CANCEL, and then explains how you should decide what to select? Here’s an example:

THE MESSAGE BOX TEXT: You have made changes to your document. If you navigate away from this page, changes will not be saved. Do you want to keep your changes?

(The actual choices are: OK, CANCEL.)

MORE TEXT: Press OK to abandon your changes, CANCEL to stay on this screen so you can save them.


The main observation here is that the button captions should have been clear, perhaps: ABANDON CHANGES/NAVIGATE AWAY and STAY ON THIS SCREEN. Then no further explanation would be necessary. And I’ve seen much worse than this involving three buttons.

So where’s the villain here? The villain is the Microsoft programming interface for Windows, which makes it real easy to program a message box with standard button labels, and HARDER to program a message box with non-standard button labels. When the programmer gets a bug report saying that the button labels are unclear, a quick change is made to explain the labels, instead of the greater effort of relabeling the buttons. I confess; I’ve committed this programming sin myself. Sigh
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