Write Clear Text and Messages
The wording of the interface and its screens is the basic form of communication with the user. Clear and meaningfully crafted words, messages, and text lead to greatly enhanced system usability and minimize user confusion that leads to errors and possibly even system rejection. In this step, general guidelines for choosing the proper words and writing clear messages and text will be presented. Topics to be covered are as follows:
- The concept of readability.
- Choosing the proper words.
- Writing sentences and messages.
- Kinds of messages.
- Presenting and writing text.
- Window title, conventions, and sequence control guidance.
These general guidelines will be followed by a discussion of Web-specific guidelines, including
- Presenting and writing page text.
- Writing links and headings.
- Writing instructions and error messages.
Words, Sentences, Messages, and Text
All communications should simply, clearly, and politely provide the information one must have to effectively use a system. The design of these communications must take into account the user's experience and knowledge of the system topic, and how much information the user actually needs to efficiently interact with the system. Like all aspects of interface design, knowing the user is the first step in choosing the proper words and creating acceptable messages and text. Let's begin by reviewing one concept by which the understandability of written materials can be measured — readability.