A popular chatting application has the global option "Enable buddy icon animation". Would this be better phrased as "Animate buddy icon" or not? And if so, is this a general rule? For example, replacing "Enable SSH logging" with "Log SSH" seems to cry out for another noun like "output" at the end. But that might be an exception since "log" can also be a noun.

  • 1
    This thread has some content that you might find relevant: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/35210/… – Charles Wesley Feb 26 '13 at 18:06
  • 1
    "Animate buddy icon", to me, sounds like it'll make non-animated icons wiggle around just for the sake of animation. – Yamikuronue Feb 27 '13 at 15:29
  • @Yamikuronue +1 That's an excellent answer - That it forces animation rather than enables it. – l0b0 Feb 27 '13 at 19:51

You need to make a distinction between an action that causes a single event to happen, and an action which causes a state change.

Delete X is an event as it will happen once and X will not continually be deleted without the user selecting Delete again. Enable animation is a state change, as from that point on the animation will happen without the user being needed.

So I would keep to language that implies a state (such as enable or activate) for state changes such as Enable logging or Enable animation. And single event verbs for single event actions such as Delete or Highlight.

The Enable SSH logging vs. Log SSH is a subtle distinction, but an important one. When someone selects Enable logging, it is clear that from this point on something will be logged, whereas the language in Log SSH implies that a log will now be generated for recent activity.

|improve this answer|||||
  • +1 for pointing out the state change. I still think it's clear from context - a global settings dialog, separate from the context where buddy icons appear - that we're talking about a permanent state change, but I can see how it could be misunderstood. – l0b0 Feb 26 '13 at 14:03

The verb in "Animate buddy icon" does not refer to the action user may perform. He will not animate, but he can enable/disable the animation.

Hence I'd say "Animate buddy icon" may sound for the user like "Animate it once, now". Still, it mostly depends on where it is placed. Should it be a checkbox in settings, it would mean "enable/disable the option" while a button in the chat window might make the user think it refers to on click, one time (and thus on demand) animation of the icon.

I would do it like this - strip the verb from the option name, so that it sounds "Animated buddy icon: disabled" and move the verb resembling the action user may perform to a button [Enable] placed next to it. Upon pressing the button, the option would change to "Animated buddy icon: enabled" and the button to [Disable].

|improve this answer|||||
  • The button solution has been discussed elsewhere, and I agree with the accepted answer that it's difficult in practice to understand how this works. – l0b0 Feb 26 '13 at 12:24
  • Clarified the question to make it clear that it's a global option, not something to do once. – l0b0 Feb 26 '13 at 13:09

This is a really broad question and there's no right answer. However, I'll like to give my 2 cents.

It depends on a lot of things, from your users to what form elements you use. The "Animate buddy icon"-label needs a radio button group (Yes/No) or a similar set of options (like a dropdown). "Enable buddy icon animation" only requires a checkbox.

I would go for whatever is most describing and also fits in the screen that you design. However, there are other concerns you need to assess. For example: you can force input to the radio button group but you can't force it using the checkbox (unless it's a T&C-style checkbox that the user has to agree to).

|improve this answer|||||
  • 1
    I don't agree that 'the "Animate buddy icon"-label needs a radio button group ... or a similar set of options'. Anybody who knows how check boxes work are aware that whether it is checked or not directly corresponds to "Yes" or "No". – l0b0 Feb 26 '13 at 12:10
  • Regarding "you can force input to the radio button group but you can't force it using the checkbox": It is possible to not select anything in a radio button group (HTML example). – l0b0 Feb 26 '13 at 12:14
  • 2
    @l0b0: you don't really animate the buddy icon, you enable the animation. In this example it may be clear, but what about the second example: would "Log SSH" be clear enough? What about enabling large text sizes? "Large text size" doesn't cut it. "Increase text size" might. It just depends on the wording you choose. – vincent.io Feb 26 '13 at 12:28
  • 2
    @l0b0: regarding your second comment, that's why I said: "you CAN force input". You don't need to, but you can explicitly ask for a yes or a no. You can't do that with a checkbox, then you can only enforce if leaving it unchecked is not an option. – vincent.io Feb 26 '13 at 12:30

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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