Secret ingredients to quality software


Messages - Do you use messages that are concise?

Created on 27 Nov 2012 | Last updated by Rebecca Liu on 13 Dec 2012 03:51 AM (over 8 years ago)

It is important to use terminology that your users will understand. Do not to use technical terms that may confuse your users. Use consistent words and phrasing for similar situations. For example, the following phrases have the same meaning which is the best one?

  • Not enough memory.
  • There is not enough memory.
  • There is not enough free memory.
  • Insufficient memory.
  • No memory was available.
  • Your computer does not have sufficient memory.
  • Memory resource is not enough.
  • Ran out of memory.
  • You may be out of memory.

Bad MessageBoxZango
Figure: Bad Example - Is it OK to Cancel?

Microsoft uses this one:

Figure: Good Example - Microsoft error message is concise

Some other message types that Microsoft uses are:

Message type Sample message
Not enough disk space There is not enough disk space to complete the operation. Delete some unneeded files on your hard disk, and then try again
File not found The program cannot find the file filename
Re-running setup The filename file is missing. Run Setup again to reinstall the missing file. For more information about running Setup, press F1.

Consider using or adapting them in your application in similar scenarios. Only include the information that the user needs and will understand.

This also applies to general design principles, read our rule on Less is more: do you know people scan, not read?

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