Text in UI design

Sometimes feeds roll in articles that are surprisingly congruous. Over at Impulsive Highlights there’s a screenshot (which will surely be removed soon) of an upcoming preferences panel in a Leopard app for decompressing zip files.

Sometimes you want to keep the zip file after expanding it; sometimes you don’t. (A brief shoutout here to the old Stuffit archive format since I’ll never have the chance again. It was great back in the nineties when you’d get a progress meter saying things like “Unstuffing 34 files” — I still remember the comment about how on a PC it was a lot more boring to decompress files!)

Back to this preference panel; it offers an option called “Keep unarchiving dearchived file(s)”. Either it’s someone’s idea of a joke, filler text to be improved in the future (and I love it!); or it’s a classic example of why programmers shouldn’t write interfaces. Really, “unarchiving dearchived…”? So great.

At the same time as this nugget crosses my reading path, I also come across ‘The long road to simple: creating, debating, and iterating “Add an event”’. Here, the 37signals guys show how much work is required (or, at least how much work they do) on iterating a single text element in an interface to achieve the right mix of consise-ness and explainability. Wonderful stuff.