How do you spell UI?December 9, 2005
With words, of course! User interface is often as much about the words you choose as the actual layout of the page. Just the simple question of what to call a confirmation button can cause a lengthy debate: Save, Register, Complete, Next, Done, Finish?
I was thinking about this because at the same time that Google was adding RSS feeds to Gmail, they also made a small change to the Gmail UI. What was once called Move to trash is now called Delete.
I know I'm a web geek, but this stuff fascinates me. I'm sure it was a very intentional decision to use Move to trash in the first place, when most people would be looking for Delete. First, they probably wanted to be a little different and innovative. Second, they wanted to subtly train people to think different about mail. In other words, don't think in terms of deleting or "getting rid of" your mail. Just think about it as filing mail you don't want in a folder called Trash. After all, with Gmail, you should never have to permanently delete anything.
It confused me for the first two weeks I used Gmail. Everytime I wanted to get rid of a message, I kept looking for the Delete option. Of course, I then got used to it and came to really like the phrase and how it stood out in the drop down box.
Now, Move to trash is gone and we have Delete instead. I wonder how much trouble Move to trash has caused them? I wonder how many people have been confused about how to delete a message? I assume they finally had a meeting and decided to go with what most people expect. Sometimes being different causes more trouble than it's worth. Of course, now I'm confused again, but I'm sure I'll get used to it.
I've had a similar idea on FellowshipChurch.com. It's always a struggle to come up with names that make sense to people, especially for things like prayer, missions, and counseling. That section is currently called "Care & Prayer", as it is on many church websites, and for the longest time I've wanted to call it "Help". Whether you want help, or want to help, it's all right there under one, simple word. I just think it's brilliant, until everyone reminds me that when you're on a website and you see the word "Help", you assume that it's a section designed to help you use the site.
I still think it's a cool idea, though.