Re: HIG Text Alignment [was Re: [Usability] Better look Re: (no subject)]

On 14 Dec, 2005, at 12:01 PM, Alan Horkan wrote:

On Tue, 13 Dec 2005, Matthew Paul Thomas wrote:
Yes, currently the HIG says: "Left-align components and labels, unless all the labels in a group have very different lengths. If they do, right-align the labels instead, to ensure that no controls end up too far away from their corresponding labels."
This encourages internal inconsistency, leftward imbalance, and columns of colons that almost line up but not quite. It's also an impractical guideline to follow, since you can't reasonably know how different the label lengths are going to be in every language your software is translated into, and translators can't specify the alignment themselves.

Surely internationalisation would mean the point about variable string
lengths could always be applicable if you wanted it to be.

Sure, and I take advantage of that whenever designing Gnome-based software myself. But most developers don't realize the possibility; and it's bad form for guidelines to say "do X, except when Y" if p(Y) ≈ 1.

Recently I spotted a good example of why the Gnome guideline doesn't make sense -- ironically from Kontact in KDE. In Kontact's normal composition window, the header field labels are similar lengths, so left alignment looks nearly as good as right alignment would < composer-normal.png>. But when you show more headers in the window, some of the labels suddenly become very far away from their fields, which looks awful < composer-all.png>. And switching them from left to right alignment depending on the presence of *other* headers would also be silly. Using right alignment consistently avoids this problem.

The important issue is making sure the association of labels and the
control is clear.  For accessibility this also needs to done
programmatically anyway so perhaps there is some better way than
alignment to better show this association to all users?

I don't think there needs to be, if colon alignment works fine.

(Some kind of visual cue, prelighting, clickign on the text label would do something to the associated control I dont know maybe something like that.)

I would much rather that clicking on a text label (not counting the text for a checkbox, radiobutton, or expander) began a drag to move the window, just like clicking in any other non-interactive part of the window ... But that's another story.

Matthew Paul Thomas

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