Take the 2-minute tour ×
User Experience Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for user experience researchers and experts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I’m creating a web app for services like CRM, Helpdesk, etc, and I’m wondering what might be the best verb tense to use to address users… Why?

There will be a lot of tooltips, help guides, instructions, etc, and most importantly…command buttons and different verbal terms can be used…

For Romanic languages, the verb tense changes, significantly. While in English, this is not problematic because the conjugating the verb form ‘Save’ is quite simple and eliminates the problem.

Save (infinitive), Save (You), Save (The formal pronoun for You)

In Romanic or Latin languages, this is up for a big debate due to the use of the formal pronoun for YOU. In this case, the conjugated form of the verb Save = Guardar is:

Guardar (Infinitivo), Guarda (Tú), Guarde (Usted).

As we’ll be addressing different audiences that cross over different ages, what do you think is the most correct and most common used form?

My idea is to simply use the “infinitive” but I’d like to get your feedback on this.

Are there any alternatives? Or maybe a post reviewing this issue?

Thanks!

share|improve this question
1  
Stackexchange is an English Language site so questions should be left in English. You can edit this question to ask in English, but we cannot translate or answer questions in other languages for you I'm afraid. –  JonW Jan 28 '13 at 12:51
    
Ok, I undestand, I will try to translate it to english version :D –  rbarona Jan 28 '13 at 14:17
    
Now I post the english version. It's ok now? –  rbarona Jan 28 '13 at 14:37
    
Yes, that's much better thanks. We've reopened this for you now. –  JonW Jan 28 '13 at 15:28
    
rbarona, what do other sites do in this case? –  jlarson Jan 28 '13 at 15:53
show 1 more comment

3 Answers

I once upon a time translated software for Microsoft into French (which poses exactly the same issues) and their guidelines were:

  • use nouns when possible, or the infinitive if you can't avoid a verb, for UI elements like menus or buttons (eg: Fichier, Edition, Sauvegarder)

  • use the formal form (in French, "vous") when addressing the user, with brackets for gender variants (which is an added layer of fun when dealing with UI in most languages other than English, so we got strings like "Etes-vous sûr(e)...").

If your audience is very broad and includes both people you would address informally (children) and formally, you can't go very wrong addressing everyone formally and using polite forms ("Veuillez appuyer...") rather than the imperative ("Appuyez...").

However, I would recommend, as other people here have done, looking at the grammatical forms and vocabulary used in commercial software by companies like Apple, Microsoft or Google which will have invested a great deal of time and thought into how this works best. Aside from anything else, using a vocabulary consistent with common usage in existing sites will make yours feel more familiar to your users. Good luck!

share|improve this answer
add comment

Edit: Use this manual for Simplified English, developed by the AECMA for English usage in the Aerospace industry.

The answer depends on the language, the culture of its speakers, and the sub-cultures that are part of the audience.

TL;DR: For English, use the present tense.

I would generally look to newspaper and news source publishing style guides.

  • The AP Stylebook
  • The Chicago Manual of Style
  • The Economist Styleguide
  • NY Times Manual of Style and Usage
  • The Guardian Style Guide

... and so many more.

These companies build a tested example of a neutral style and represent the form of usage expected and accepted by the public.

To specifically address the grammar of verbs used in English-language sites, I'm going to reference Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition. Within a discussion of tenses (5.115-5.121), it should be recommended that we use the Present tense of verbs. This "primarily denotes acts, conditions or states that occur in the present {I see} {you understand}" [CMoS 177]. When making a command in English, it is common to use the present tense and assume the subject of the sentence. Therefore, as above, when you reference "save", you're using the present tense of

  • (You all,) save.
  • (You (formal)), save.

When asking about the infinitive, you're talking about a verb form and not necessarily tense. An infinitive is the root form of a verb. It will often be the form of the verb used in the present tense, but when you talk about using infinitives, generally it's in the context of using them like a noun, in an adjectival/adverbial/prepositional phrase.

share|improve this answer
    
And, as you illustrated in your question, conjugation can be complicated and is about more than just the verb tense. A "what is the best verb conjugation" question would further considerations, IMO. –  Matt Jan 28 '13 at 20:06
add comment

You want to ensure the visual language you use is as universally understood as possible. For instance there are symbols for play, stop, pause, fast-forward, rewind, go-to-beginning, etc. are the common well understood ones. (This may seem to not need saying but I've run across media players with control symbols that I didn't understand.)

Keep the control set minimal (e.g. you don't need multiple speeds of rewind).

Consider only having push-button inputs (volume would be controlled by push buttons, not slider), basically simplifying the input grammer.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.