Re: Tabs, pages, and ambiguity

Subject: Re: Tabs, pages, and ambiguity
From: "Matthew B. Hicks" <matt -at- UNIDATA -dot- UCAR -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 17 Apr 1996 11:20:36 -0600

On Wed, 17 Apr 1996, Ron Rothbart wrote:

> However, from what I hear around me, I'm afraid that "tab" may catch on to
> refer to both my tab and my card, creating ambiguity and maybe even forcing
> me to change my manuals (horrors!). But such ambiguity is unavoidable. What
> people call things is beyond our control. "File" in the old paper world
> meant something like folder, but in the computer world it has come to mean
> something like document. So, will the real "file" please stand up? The world
> turns, and so does language.

In interface-design circles, this is known (rather unimaginatively,
perhaps) as the vocabulary problem. If even a very small group of users is
asked to provide a name for an action or an interface element you will
likely get many disparate terms. I'm currently taking a course on
interface design (which I've been meaning to tell you all about, since it
is available as a remote-learning course) and the professor used an
in-class exercise to demonstrate the lack of agreement that prevails as to
what to call things. Larger groups may tend to have more people agreeing
on terms, but the agreements will probably be distributed across a number
of different terms. Even if you settle on the term chosen by the largest
number of people, you will be choosing a term that may not mean much (or
the appropriate thing) to the people who chose the next-most-popular term.
Basically, you can't win.

-Matt Hicks
matt -at- unidata -dot- ucar -dot- edu
Owner of the Dal-l Web pages:

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