Re: [Usability]Re: Controls, widgets, and UI learning.
- From: Pat Costello <Patrick Costello Sun COM>
- To: usability gnome org
- Subject: Re: [Usability]Re: Controls, widgets, and UI learning.
- Date: Mon, 29 Jul 2002 17:17:39 +0100 (BST)
The contributors in this string who tend to support "Widget" as a tab title in
the Appearance capplet make the following summarized claims:
- The term "Control" or "Controls" is vague and unclear because there is a
potential noun vs verb confusion.
- The term "Widget" is precise, clear and covers things like radio buttons,
scrollbars, sliders and so on.
Speaking from a documentation point of view, these arguments bear closer
The definition of the noun "Controls" in the American Heritage Dictionary (AHD)
is given as:
- An instrument or set of instruments used to operate, regulate or guide a
machine or vehicle.
In the case of GNOME, the machine is the UI. Radio buttons et al are part of a
set of instruments. If that's what "Controls" are, then this definition covers
The >>two<< definitions of the noun "Widget" in the AHD are as follows:
1. A small mechanical device or control; a gadget.
2. An unnamed or hypothetical manufactured article.
The first definition does mention "control", however the sense of the
definition, especially given the sub-clause "a gadget" indicates that the term
"Widget" applies to out-of-the-ordinary controls. Special gadgets that are
designed to do a one-off, unusual job could therefore be called "Widgets". There
is no indication that standard controls, such as radio buttons and so on, would
fall under this definition.
The second definition is more worrying. Basically, "Widget" is a synonym for
"Thingy" or "Thingummy". A word that you apply when you don't know what
something is called, or can't remember, or you are posing a theoretical item.
Hardly precise and clear. Ok, you might reply that in the computer world
"widget" has a more defined meaning. That's fine, but the problem with the term
is that most of our end-users do not inhabit the computer world. For them, the
term "widget" has the meanings given in the AHD, whether we think that is right
Jargon - An Informal Dictionary of Computer Terms has the following to say about
"A widget can be sort of a wildcard term for a real thing for which you don't
have an exact name."
On the other hand, the same reference goes on to say:
"Some PC users in a graphical user interface (using windows and icons) ... call
the scroll box a widget."
Notice: only the scroll box is mentioned, not any other controls, thus
introducing a further element of doubt as to the universal applicability of the
term "Widget" to all classes of UI controls.
"Controls" is preferable to "Widget" or any of the other suggestions such as
"Window Contents". The word "Controls" is defined and understood sufficiently in
general usage, as defined in the AHD. The word "Controls" covers things like
radio buttons et al. There is no need to educate users about a new concept. The
set of instruments concepts is known and familiar. The argument that "Controls"
will cause problems for translators doesn't hold water, the translation glossary
for each language can easily sort out this issue.
There is no need to look for a replacement to the term "Controls", and I suggest
that the term is used in the UI in the same sense as in the documentation.
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