Messaging Patterns

2 Dec 2005 - 10:00am
8 years ago
7 replies
334 reads
Baron Lane
2005

Hey all,

I'm attempting to determine industry standards for website communication but am having a hard time finding any formal documentation.

What constitutes a "warning" and an "alert"? Is a warning a subset of an alert? How about a reminder, is it a type of warning? You can see my dilemma.

I want to be able to explain 1) what "causes" the message, 2) the attributes of the message (location, color, font, icon included) 3) priority and persistence of message and 4) what action (if any) the client has to take on the message .

Any help is appreciated.

/b.

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Comments

2 Dec 2005 - 10:12am
Dave Malouf
2005

I think this is not just a web thing at all. This is one of the basics of
IxD in digital solutions.
It is what Robert Fabricant of Frog Design here at the NY event this past
Tuesday spoke about as the ³feedback loop² and what Marc Rettig might refer
to as the Language of the design.

On a more direct answer, we were just talking about this same issue in our
³Performance Support² (the new word for ³help²) meeting the other day.

We came up with a few types of messaging and described them according to the
context, flow, and meaning.

First there are informational messages. These are of two types depending on
the flow.
Instructional ... Inline or before action instruction.
Status ... After the action.
(these are classic ³i² icon options if you want any icon at all.

Then there are warnings which have another two types.
Confirmational ... ³are you sure you want to do this?². These are some sort
of dialog as they happen after the instantiation of an action, but require
further action.
Informational ... Like the above informational but the information in this
case explains consquences (often perceived as ³dire²). Both of these are
good for the ³yellow triangle² w/ an ³!² in it (or again your choice).

Exception messages exist in various forms as well.
Incontext they can alert users to mistakes or absences in data that is
required.
As an alert they can alert a user to systemic mistakes that usually happen
asynchronously (meaning while something else is going on in the background.
These are improved upon if there isa way from the alert to begin the
process of rectifying the error (where possible and plausible).

Really though, how you format these ideas and fold it into the actual
solution can be different depending on the solution. I do not think there is
a single guideline for doing this that you need to necessarily follow. You
can extrapolate the rules from windows if you like, or Mac and there is a
lot of overlap there. But on the web the language of Performance Support
needs to be in the same semantics and syntax as the rest of your
application.

-- dave

On 12/2/05 10:00 AM, "Baron Lane" <baronlane at yahoo.com> wrote:

> Hey all,
>
> I'm attempting to determine industry standards for website communication but
> am having a hard time finding any formal documentation.
>
> What constitutes a "warning" and an "alert"? Is a warning a subset of an
> alert? How about a reminder, is it a type of warning? You can see my dilemma.
>
> I want to be able to explain 1) what "causes" the message, 2) the attributes
> of the message (location, color, font, icon included) 3) priority and
> persistence of message and 4) what action (if any) the client has to take on
> the message .
>
> Any help is appreciated.
>
> /b.
>
> __________________________________________________
> Do You Yahoo!?
> Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around
> http://mail.yahoo.com

-- dave

David Heller
http://synapticburn.com/
http://ixdg.org/
Dave (at) ixdg (dot) org
Dave (at) synapticburn (dot) com
AIM: bolinhanyc || Y!: dave_ux || MSN: hippiefunk at hotmail.com

2 Dec 2005 - 10:42am
Jack L. Moffett
2005

Baron,

For what it's worth, the U.S. military has a standard in their
Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals (IETMs) that specifies
"Warnings," "Cautions," and "Notes." Warnings are messages that alert
the user to things that could result in injury or loss of life.
Cautions refer to things that could result in damage to equipment.
Notes cover anything else. They are color-coded: warnings = red,
cautions = yellow, notes = cyan.

I've always referred to them collectively as "alerts," so that I
don't have to repeatedly write out "warnings, cautions, and notes,"
but that isn't specified in the standard.

Jack

Jack L. Moffett
Interaction Designer
inmedius
412.690.2360 x219
http://www.inmedius.com

In our society,
the scarce factor is not information,
it is time to attend to information.

- Herb Simon

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2 Dec 2005 - 11:05am
Marijke Rijsberman
2004

>For what it's worth, the U.S. military has a standard in their
>Interactive Electronic Technical Manuals (IETMs) that specifies
>"Warnings," "Cautions," and "Notes." Warnings are messages that alert
>the user to things that could result in injury or loss of life.
>Cautions refer to things that could result in damage to equipment.
>Notes cover anything else. They are color-coded: warnings = red,
>cautions = yellow, notes = cyan.

Frankly, I think that that's too complicated a typology already. Having
spent a lot of time observing users, I think the most complex typology you
could get your users to understand (given the amount of brain power most
users are willing to expend on stuff like that) would have only two classes:
- messages that have useful information--users could choose to read them
- messages that contain crucial information--users must read them to be able
to use the software effectively

Marijke

2 Dec 2005 - 11:25am
Ben Hunt
2004

This also brings up the property of modality, i.e. A user has to acknowlege
or otherwise deal with a modal dialog. They grab the focus and you can't
focus on any other window while a modal dialog is up.

Windows traditionally had 3 types of alert, I think: information, warning
and critical stop. There may be more.

Information
-----------
FYI only, and can be ignored. Never modal.

Warning
-------
A warning could apply to stuff where the system wants to check something
that may cause a problem, e.g. "This month's figures look too high compared
to last month's", or "Are you sure you want to delete this?" Whether or not
this kind of warning is modal may depend on the context.

Critical stop
-------------
Always modal, for situations where something illegal or critically important
has happened, and user acknowledgement/intervention is required before
anything can proceed.

- Ben

-----Original Message-----
I think the most complex typology you could get your users to understand
(given the amount of brain power most users are willing to expend on stuff
like that) would have only two classes:
- messages that have useful information--users could choose to read them
- messages that contain crucial information--users must read them to be able
to use the software effectively

Marijke

2 Dec 2005 - 11:41am
ldebett
2004

I think this three-category typology is extremely important and crucial to
some applications... especially when one category, as Jack notes, can warn
of a situation that may "result in injury or loss of life".

In devices/applications that must account for such extremes, you absolutely
must have this level of distinction. In the case of desktop apps/RIAs, such
criticality could be in the form of loss of or deletion of crucial
information (think databases, OSs, etc.). Users will certainly understand
that level of warning.

~Lisa

> Frankly, I think that that's too complicated a typology already. Having
> spent a lot of time observing users, I think the most complex typology you
> could get your users to understand (given the amount of brain power most
> users are willing to expend on stuff like that) would have only two
> classes:
> - messages that have useful information--users could choose to read them
> - messages that contain crucial information--users must read them to be
> able
> to use the software effectively
>
> Marijke
>
>

24 Jan 2006 - 9:03pm
Greg Phillips
2006

I am generally less concerned with what they are called (which is more
of a content strategy issue) and more focused on what purpose they serve
to the user and the inherent state for the interaction model. The
question of modality comes up in relation to that, particularly when
dealing with various implementations (i.e.: layers vs. pop-ups vs. new
windows on the Web).
So the categorization is enlightening, in terms of defining usage and
state, but it doesn't really matter what you call them. At least to me.

Greg Phillips ~ Sr. Information Architect
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Baron Lane
Sent: Friday, December 02, 2005 7:00 AM
To: discuss at lists.interactiondesigners.com
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Messaging Patterns
[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]
Hey all,
I'm attempting to determine industry standards for website communication
but am having a hard time finding any formal documentation.
What constitutes a "warning" and an "alert"? Is a warning a subset of
an alert? How about a reminder, is it a type of warning? You can see my
dilemma.
I want to be able to explain 1) what "causes" the message, 2) the
attributes of the message (location, color, font, icon included) 3)
priority and persistence of message and 4) what action (if any) the
client has to take on the message .
Any help is appreciated.
/b.

27 Jan 2006 - 10:19am
Ian Chan
2005

This is an interesting thread. Here's a quick pass on the issues. I've not
thought this through, so it's a bit...weird.

Perceptual Modalities
--audio
--visual
--textual

Formats
--linguistic
--signs
--indexicals

Example: "Fire!" is linguistic; flashing lights on fire truck = signs; smoke
= indexical

Actions
--required for next step in sequence (e.g. User approval of terms of
agreement)
--not required

User Response desired
--that user is aware of X (get user's attention)
--that user understands X (get user's comprehension, understanding)
--that user agrees with X (get user's agreement)

System needs
--verification
--step in sequence or process

Presentation modalities
--popup (intrudes on user experience)
--blinky thingy (appears but doesn't intrude, is attention seeking)
--interruption (page, popup, dialog -- requires user action like "ok")
--state message (e.g. text: 1 new message)

Not much of a formal framework there, but hopefully food of some sort!

Adrian

> From: Greg Phillips <gcpvision at yahoo.com>
> Reply-To: Greg Phillips <gcpvision at yahoo.com>
> Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2006 18:03:31 -0800 (PST)
> To: <discuss at lists.interactiondesigners.com>
> Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Messaging Patterns
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> I am generally less concerned with what they are called (which is more
> of a content strategy issue) and more focused on what purpose they serve
> to the user and the inherent state for the interaction model. The
> question of modality comes up in relation to that, particularly when
> dealing with various implementations (i.e.: layers vs. pop-ups vs. new
> windows on the Web).
> So the categorization is enlightening, in terms of defining usage and
> state, but it doesn't really matter what you call them. At least to me.
>
> Greg Phillips ~ Sr. Information Architect
> Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online
>

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
> material.]
> Hey all,
> I'm attempting to determine industry standards for website communication
> but am having a hard time finding any formal documentation.
> What constitutes a "warning" and an "alert"? Is a warning a subset of
> an alert? How about a reminder, is it a type of warning? You can see my
> dilemma.
> I want to be able to explain 1) what "causes" the message, 2) the
> attributes of the message (location, color, font, icon included) 3)
> priority and persistence of message and 4) what action (if any) the
> client has to take on the message .
> Any help is appreciated.
> /b.
>

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