Below is a short browser based linux simulator for training purposes. It basically starts off with a blank screen, and gives directions for the user to enter a linux command to do a given task. If the command entered is wrong, it tells them, and it the command is the correct one it will execute it, or simulate executing it, then give a little explanation of what the command just did, and then it comes up with new directions / a new question of sorts for them to enter the next correct command.

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The aesthetic is a little over the top, and there are a couple of things I'm in the process of working on with it, but I have one big UX issue that I seem to be stumped with.

The "Directions" area seems off. I could probably find a way to make the directions area more prominent so it's intuitive to the user that this area contains the directions. I'd like to label the area no matter what, but the word "Directions" seems a little awkward and redundant. Technically I already have directions at the top, which basically say follow the directions at the bottom...

Is there another word I can use in this situation? Keep in mind that any word or phrase telling the user that "this is what you're supposed to now" which is appropriate for this simulator would work, not simply thesaurus synonyms for the word directions. Eg. "Next command" would work, but I think I can do better.

I'm open to any suggestions for a visual solution as well, but I think terminology is something that's often underrated in web and user interface design, and even if I find a visual solution, I'd like to label it somehow.

  • Lol, is that a smartphone-like UI for teaching Unix shell? I'm looking forward to the virtual reality app to train people how to operate a punch for 80 column cards. :)
    – Kaz
    Mar 23, 2013 at 0:32
  • I know how to use a Linux shell. But I did not understand your user interface. It took me some time to understand that the lines at the top are results of different commands. And I would not use a shell like that. A true Linux shell does not stack results like this, he displays the commands entered and their results. The teaching “simulator” you propose is much harder to use than a true Linux shell. You should first improve that. Mar 24, 2013 at 12:48
  • @NicolasBarbulesco Could you go into a little more detail on the differences, and what you mean by a true Linux shell not stacking results like this? I've never used linux, the visual layout is merely based off a flash version that has the same layout in terms of how its stacking command results.
    – Eric
    Mar 25, 2013 at 12:23
  • 1
    @user1803405 — A true Linux shell displays the commands and their results, so we know what is the result of what. Mar 25, 2013 at 14:06
  • 1
    @user1803405 — Look at that video : youtu.be/rWJrWWOpTkE. Mar 25, 2013 at 14:07

4 Answers 4


'Instructions' are a better term here, as the term 'directions' is broader, and may cause confusion. Whereas instructions are directions as they apply to information specifically.

  • This is the answer that I would have given - the text is instructing the user what to do next. While "directions" is close, given that this is within the context of learning John's suggestion is a better fit. Mar 22, 2013 at 17:58
  • I think Instructions is better, but it is still not accurate as no steps are given. Perhaps I am too literal in the definition... Mar 22, 2013 at 18:01
  • @AthomSfere Instructions don't have to be step by step to be instructions. Based on then screenshot users are being given instructions.
    – JohnGB
    Mar 22, 2013 at 18:20
  • It's kind of a tough question, even amongst co-worker's we're not entirely satisfied with the options we've come up with, but looks like we're going to go with "Command Instructions"
    – Eric
    Mar 22, 2013 at 18:33

To have a less formal tone to your users, if this is a learning application (asserted from screenshot), I would use what you really write in your question:

Your next step:

That way you would get users feel more relaxed and more focused on learning.

  • 1
    If I could have expanded my brainstorm past single words, I would have suggested this! Mar 22, 2013 at 18:01
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    Yes. Or even "next steps". Frankly I wouldn't have blinked if you had simply put a little right arrow and indented that (and subsequent) instruction(s), keeping the whole bottom section in one block. Mar 23, 2013 at 2:45

It is certainly not directions, as we are not telling the user to turn left, head east etc.. Instructions I am not sure would be correct either, as you are not giving the user the commands or guidance, "type ls -h" for example...

Objective might be a better fit, because you are giving them a goal or objective, and they are to figure it out. Direction is a synonym of objective, but not the pluralized form directions which generally implies commands that are issued to complete a task.

Other choices could be

  • Task
  • Assignment
  • Mission
  • I can see what you're getting at. While I'm not satisfied with the term "directions", mostly because it seems sterile and less meaningful, I think instructions or directions may fit definition-wise, even if it's loosely fitting. While I'm not giving the user the correct course of action at first, I'm giving them instructions of what to do as if they were actually working in linux. The part that's left out is how to complete the instructions, or task. That said, I appreciate the input. Task may work. Assignment and mission seem to have a connotation of being the end goal, not the immediate task
    – Eric
    Mar 22, 2013 at 18:05

Depending on the tone of the (web) application, you can use:

Assignment (serious), Task (neutral) or Mission (kinda light?)

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