This post is inspired by uninformative user facing texts in software. Being a software developer, I know that there are situations when we are not aware of how meaningless the text we write can be to the rest of the world. This is an excuse post to all the users affected by such messages and also a reminder to other developers that they should be careful how they communicate with their users.
In a perfect software development world, there are professional content writers and all the user facing texts are approved by them. This covers all the possible screens, information and error messages that can be shown to users. Developer not only doesn’t need to write the string himself, he doesn’t need to worry about the content or even the language of the text. Of course, in this world content writer fully understands the software product, context and message he needs to present to users. He can easily translate technical language we as developers communicate to a non-technical language the rest of the world understands.
In the real world situation is a bit different. Even if you are lucky enough to have a content writer for your software, you most probably had a situation where you had to write the text on your own. In this situation, when writing program code at high speed you just don’t give that much attention, or don’t shift to non-tecnical way of thinking for just that small “detail” such as user facing text message. I’m aware of this situation, but it’s certainily not an excuse. This situation requires to break out from technical way of thinking and put yourself in a situation of your user. Only then you’ll have a chance to write an informative text that your users will find useful. Here are some how-tos for writing user interface texts on MSDN.
Instead of picking only a few of “the best of” texts, here’s a link to some good examples of what this post was all about.