Re: Whither book "Developing Windows Error Messages"

Subject: Re: Whither book "Developing Windows Error Messages"
From: Lani Hardage <Lani -at- MDLI -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 22 Dec 1998 15:06:40 -0800

Chuck Martin wrote:
Given a clear software interface, user really do, in general,
know what they want to do.

Sure, good UI design can obviate many error messages. But how about errors
that can't be recovered, such as overwriting your really good file with a
test. I prefer a program that helps me and doesn't assume I always know what
I'm doing. I especially like programs that let you set the level of error
messages or error checking, because in a program new to me, I need all the
help I can get.

[Chuck] In the vast majority of cases, that information can be conveyed in
> software interface. For example, an empty list box labelled "Existing
> foo-bars. Select one, then click Edit, or click New to creat a new
> foor-bar."
You're assuming a VB-type UI, and it may be overkill to develope a user
interface form, when you could present a simple message box. Let the user
use his/her head to figure out how to create a new foo-bar if there aren't

[Chuck]...the *least* that can be done is that a programmer's draft of error
gets printed out and handed to a technical communicator to edit for
clarity, context, and consistency, and that hardcopy gets handed back to
the programmers with a mandate to make those changes.

Yes, some tech writers can write better error messages that some
programmers. But I've seen the opposite - a lot. Why not let programmers
have a book that helps them in the "UI" design of error messages, just like
can gettraining in editing the comments in code so as not to break the code.
Are they invading our territory?

Lani Hardage
Senior Technical Writer
MDL Information Systems, Inc.
San Leandro, CA 94577

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