Re: To Dialog or Not To Dialog

Subject: Re: To Dialog or Not To Dialog
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 3 Apr 1996 12:36:08 -0800

At 11:06 AM 4/3/96 -0800, Kris Olberg wrote:
>"Dialog" is jargon. IMHO, a large percentage of computer users think of
>"dialog" as an oral interaction between two people.

>I prefer "window."

But it's not a window. A window can have a menu and is resizeable.
A dialog box can't/isn't. IMO, using the wrong terminology is a
disservice to the user. You do not build on any prior knowledge
the user may have and you do not reinforce the platform standards.

Just as a dialogue is a communicative interaction between people,
a dialog box is a communicative interaction between the user and
the program. Using the familiar term to describe the new action
builds on prior (real world) knowledge and facilitates learning
the computer environment.

When I'm writing for the end-user community, I am very careful
to use the exact same terminology that's used in the software's
platform (e.g., dialog box, text box, option buttons). I keep
a Windows manual at my desk to look up terms and spelling (the
sys adm people are usually happy to get rid of one or two Windows
manuals because nobody at work ever needs them). The user
can then consult the system documentation (either hard copy or
online) to find definitions for any unfamiliar terms.

I have usability tested this tactic and have never found a problem
with comprehension.

When I'm writing for the programming community (in my present
position, they are my end-users), I am more disposed to use
jargon (e.g., dialog, field) because my target audience is
more computer-savy and will recognize these terms. Why don't
I use the "official" terminology for programmers??? Take a
program with 20 dialog boxes and 200 text boxes -- multiply
the extra letters in each official term to see how much
the online help and doc grow.

-Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com

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