Living in a glass house.

I'm well aware that writing a book and a blog about good interaction design (including a healthy sermon on aesthetics) is setting oneself up for – what shall we say – friendly critique?  I've worked hard to make this website and the book look and feel as smooth and friendly as I can (within the meager available resources, of course). But sometimes it's astounding what one has to contend with.  I mean, come on WordPress!

I want you – dear reader – to be able to share your reactions to some of what's here, and WordPress kindly provides a mechanism to support that. At the bottom of this article you'll find a form inviting you to leave a comment, and I hope it's easy to understand. You won't have any trouble, I'm sure, because you're an expert at these things. But I wanted to make sure that the form also exhibits at least some of the principles I care about, so that if ever it was stumbled upon by someone who'd never seen one before, they would naturally understand and be able to use it (without, of course, making it any harder for the experts). But boy, what a struggle that's been.

The problem, you see, was terminology. I care about what things are called. I think it's much easier for people to understand something if you use an appropriate name for it. More than that, it's quite important to use the same name each time you refer to the same thing, and a different name when you mean something different. WordPress on the other hand, out of the box at least, doesn't do that. A little speech bubble at the top of each article refers to how many "comments" the article has. So far so good.  But at the bottom of the article, there's a link telling you how many "replies" there have been. Same thing, or different? Click on that link, and you're taken to a page that tells you how many "thoughts" have been shared about the article, provides a form that lets you "Leave a reply" (will that be counted as a "thought"?), which itself concludes with a button labeled  "Post comment". The button label is doubly ambiguous, since "post" is also the noun WordPress uses for blog entry itself (that I'm calling an "article"). What a mess.

Long story short – it took me a lot of searching in the depths of WordPress's code to find all the places that these strings appear, and to change them, but I hope now that every reference to reader contributions now uses just one term – "comment". I've also changed the button so it says "Publish comment", which seems to me to be the most unambiguous way to say to the user "press this, and everyone will see what you've written", since that's what the word "publish" means.

Perhaps this all seems like the rantings of an obsessed mind. But I happen to think that a tiny bit of obsession is crucial to great product design. Consistency is invisible, but sometimes it's the invisible things that make all the difference. Yes, it took me all evening to figure out how to get it the way I want it, but the benefit accrues every time that form is seen.

[If there are other things you think could be improved, please let me know – and if you can tell me how to fix them, so much the better!]

Tagged with: