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Secret ingredients to quality software

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Do you understand the importance of language in your UI?

Created on 02 Dec 2014 | Last updated by Dennis Heer on 12 Oct 2016 01:40 AM (over 4 years ago)

The tone of your application speaks volumes about how users view it. Read this Google documentation on the voice of Android.

Bad Example Good Example
Keep text as short as possible. Avoid wordy, stilted text. Consult the documentation that came with your phone for further instructions. Read the instructions that came with your phone
Describe only what the user needs to know and don't provide unnecessary information. Your phone needs to communicate with Google servers to sign in to your account. This may take up to five minutes. Your phone is contacting Google. This can take up to 5 minutes.
Focus on the user's concern, not technical details Manually control GPS to prevent other apps from using it. To save power, switch Location mode to Battery saving
Put the most important thing first 77 other people +1’d this, including Larry Page Larry Page and 76 others +1’d this
Put the user's goal first Touch Next to complete setup using a Wi-Fi connection To finish setup using Wi-Fi, touch Next
Avoid being confusing or annoying Sorry! Activity MyAppActivity (in application MyApp) is not responding. MyApp isn’t responding. Do you want to close it?

Words to avoid

Don't use Use
cannot, could not, do not, did not will not, you will Contractions: can’t, couldn’t, don’t, didn’t, won’t, you’ll, and so on
okay, ok OK
please, sorry, thank you Attempts at politeness can annoy the user, especially in messages that say something has gone wrong. Exception: In Japanese, “please” is mandatory and imperative verbs should be localized accordingly (turn on -> please turn on).
fail, failed, negative language In general, use positive phrasing (for example, “do” rather than “don’t,” except in cases such as “Don’t show again,” “Can’t connect,” and so on.)
me, I, my, mine you, your, yours
Are you sure? Warning! Tell user the consequence instead, for example, "You’ll lose all photos and media"

Formatting text

Use sentence-style capitalization for all UI strings.

Capitalize all important words in:

  • App names (Calendar, Google Drive)
  • Named features (Android Beam, Face Unlock)
  • Proper nouns (Statue of Liberty, San Francisco Giants)

Be conservative. Don't capitalize words that aren't part of a formal feature name: Sim card lock, Home screen, not Sim Card Lock, Home Screen.

Using Periods

Don't use a period after a single sentence or phrase used in isolation, such as in a toast, label, or notification. Wherever two or more sentences run together, use a period for each sentence.


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