Tech word for types of user interface?

Subject: Tech word for types of user interface?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000 09:44:10 -0500

Jane Carnall reports <<The SME's for a new product have come up with
terminology to describe various interfaces within the product, based on the
positioning of the interfaces in a diagram (similiar interfaces are grouped
together in the
diagram). The interfaces at the top are called "northbound", those at the
bottom are called "southbound", and to left and right "eastbound" and

Respectively? Tell them the left side is usually westbound. <gdrlh> I can't
comment on whether this is the state of the art in programming jargon, but I
somehow doubt it. In any event, it's not really that important to us, as
technical communicators, other than at one remove (see below). Your second
question is more important:

<<Should this terminology migrate to user documentation? I don't find it
particularly intuitive, and it makes it easy to identify the interfaces only
if you are looking at the diagram on which it is based.>>

On the face of it, there's no reason why this terminology should ever make
it out of the cages in which they keep the programmers. <g> You might make a
case for this approach if the application was for travel agents and related
to the directions in which voyagers will travel, but in most other cases the
description is too abstract to have any relevance; it would be far better to
pick terms that describe (in the language of the audience) what each group
of interfaces do. Since there's no good reason to have two names for the
same thing, and since consistency would be a Good Thing, you should come up
with good descriptive names and persuade the developers to adopt those
names. I'd be willing to bet they came up with these names purely because
they're no good at naming things, and would be grateful for your help in
picking better names; this would be a good way to start working more closely
with them on designs. (Don't tell them your real mission: that by getting
them to think in audience terms right from the beginning of the design
process, you're brainwashing them to think of the users of the product
rather than simply apply terms that make sense only in geekspeak. Over time,
you can condition them to think in terms of the audience and in terms of
coming to your for help with that thinking, and that too is a Good Thing.)

--Geoff Hart, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"The paperless office will arrive when the paperless toilet
arrives."--Matthew Stevens

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