Touch-screen terms?

Subject: Touch-screen terms?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 25 Jul 2003 09:08:24 -0400

Michael West is looking for help standardizing terms for a touch-screen

<<It's a "touch" screen, so we "touch" it. It isn't a "press" screen.>>

That's true enough, but both verbs focus on the physical action (i.e., the
mechanics of the interface) rather than the goal the user has for that
action. You touch the screen or press a button on the screen to achieve some
action, and that's what your word choice should focus on--the user's goal,
and how they think about the task. As well, don't forget that your word
choice governs how users will think of the action: "touch" means to make
contact, whereas "press" means to make the screen respond (by depressing a
button) and do something. See the distinction?

<<"Choose" is a possibility because it is portable across other types of
hardware (e.g. mouse-based). The only way to
"choose" something on a touch screen is to touch it, so it seems unlikely to
be a point of confusion. "Select" has a distinct meaning that is sometimes
useful: we select an item in a list and then choose an action to perform on
it. Using "select" for both the list item
and the command seems to remove a useful distinction -- but is it worth

This is one of those distinctions that only writers and editors care about.
The two words are synonymous for all practical purposes in common usage. My
preference is to use "select" consistently for all actions that require a
choice, but there's nothing really wrong with "choose". Possibly it just
sounds more informal to me?

Bottom line: Try the following general approach (example solely to
illustrate word usage): "Select Option X, then press button Y to implement
this choice. Both actions are performed by touching the appropriate part of
the screen."

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
(try ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca if you get no response)
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada

Vah! Denuone Latine loquebar? Me ineptum. Interdum modo elabitur. (Oh! Was I
speaking Latin again? Silly me. Sometimes it just sort of slips


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