Use of library names (Akonadi, Solid, Nepomuk, Phonon etc.) in user interfaces

Alexander Neundorf neundorf at
Tue Jun 10 21:38:06 BST 2008

On Tuesday 10 June 2008, Krzysztof Lichota wrote:
> I couldn't agree more. Technical names are even worse than application
> names, because people do not know technical details. Try asking your
> non-technical friend what a "library" is. Then you will know why they
> see message "Cannot load library X" as "Cannot load building with
> books X".
> The whole trick in creating user-friendly environment is to avoid
> using technical stuff.
> It is possible, but requires reading the messages by non-technical
> people and reformulating them so that they have an idea what they are
> told about.
> While I am not a fan of Windows at all, example will be from Windows
> (Vista). When some video players are run, Windows must turn off 3D desktop
> and message for users appears.
> In developers speak it would sound like that:
> "Windows had to turn off compositing manager" (I suppose in Linux it
> would be something similar to "Compiz had to be switched off", because
> you want to use branding, right?)
> In user's mind it would look like "Windows had to turn off BLAH BLAH".
> But why are my windows not transparent any more and 3D effects are not
> working?
> Instead, the real message is:
> "Windows had to change color scheme to classic Windows" (or similar)
> It does not dive in into technical details, but gives user enough
> information so that he knows what to expect, without knowing what
> compositing manager is.
> And technical user (like me) at once knows what happens, even though
> the message is not in techno-speak.

I'd like to veto a bit here.
A few weeks ago I had to help setting up WLAN access on a few Windows 
machines. I knew what I wanted, the encryption method, the router, etc.
Problem was, Windows tried to make it easy by not telling me what it is about 
to do (it may actually not be a problem of windows but of the WLAN software 
which comes with the WLAN adapter).
It asked me questions like "Are you connected to a small office network ?" (or 
something similar, I don't remember the exact wording). 
I had to guess what the purpose of those questions is. Are they asking whether 
I'm connected to a LAN which is connected via a router to the internet, as 
opposed to being connected directly to a DSL modem ?
It would have been so much easier if they would have actually told me what 
they want, instead of asking me unclear things where I have to guess what 
they mean.
So, please, finding easy-to-understand words is very good, but don't hide 
what's actually going on.
While it is often true that "people don't know technical details", still it 
should be obvious for somebody who actually knows the details what he has to 
do. This will also help with problem solving, because then users can use a 
correct language and search for correct terms, instead of just using vague 


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