sentient lay person

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Different software programs use language in different ways to do similar system-related activities. The tone of voice they use when talking to the person using the software can create different attitudes towards the software supplier. Below we see how the software program Mozilla starts talking to its user immediately after the program has crashed. It opens with an apology, it doesn’t brusquely announce and ‘error’ it talks directly to the users experience and deals directly with the emotional reaction of the user to the experience of a crash.

Well done Mozilla.

Mozilla are sorry

By contrast here we see Google, talking in its own internal language, showing that language to the user ‘Client Error’ what’s that when it’s at home apart from being a pain to me.

Poor show google.

Client Error

I have a growing collection of different ‘error’ messages from different major software providers. That Mozilla’s opening apology is the only one approaching engaging, even personable is a sad inditement on the software industry. Major companies could define their tone of voice as something that speaks reassuringly to me as an sentient lay person.

I wish they would

sentient lay person
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4 bits of lovely banter on “sentient lay person”

  1. Kevin writes:

    Oh yes. Error messages are one of the biggest hurdles to bridging the digital divide. Imagine an elderly person’s reaction to a message saying: “Illegal function” – !



  2. Bux writes:

    after reading Kevin’s comment, I suddenly don’t feel so old 😉 Thankfully I am still young enough to take an error message with a pinch of salt.




  3. Brian writes:

    I’m on both sides of the fence, i.e. one who writes programs and one who uses them. I find it especially annoying when a program gives me an obscure error message or asks me to make a choice that I don’t know the answer to. Sometimes non-techie-types blame themselves for not being “smart enough” but I know that the error message could have been improved had someone set their mind to it.

    Many years ago I wrote a simple command-line utility program for someone. If the command they typed in was not recognized, the program would print: “Huh?” After a while I forgot about that, but many years later I met those people again. They told me enthusiastically how much they had enjoyed this error message!



  4. Happy Frog and I writes:

    This is a bit of a bug bear of mine so I was pretty happy to see this post. Having said that, what made me really happy was Brian’s ‘huh?’ response. If a computer had ever put that up on my screen I think it would have made me smile. As long as it then gave me a short but full description of what the problem was. 🙂



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