Feedback to 'Wordsmith'- Murphy's Law, December 2004
Read the original article at http://www.embedded.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=53700319
return to Murphy's Law
Thanks for an illuminating
You briefly mentioned
'audio prompts' in the article. I have a long history in making
programs with 'audio prompts' as the (only) interface the user.
I designed and implemented one of the first 'voice mail' systems
(1984), which was a bit of a technical stretch involving writing
a multithreaded audioboard 'device driver' (TSR) in DOS.
I learned a lot about
the human engineering of voice prompts:
- Voice prompts
must be topical (immediately useful), short and non-technical.
- Humans comprehend
and remember aurally about 1/20 of the content they hear versus
what they can see!
- Directions must
be carefully worded to make the action at the end of the prompt.
For example: Do NOT say 'Press 1 to continue'. Say 'To continue,
- Never have a long
message that requires a user to wait to the end before taking
action. Usually the user will forget the action before the
message is finished!
should be broken into short pieces so a user can skip over
them by pressing a key.
- If there is a
'tree' of menus there must be a consistent way to 'back up'
in case you took the wrong path.
- Always allow the
user to press '0' to speak to a human. If the human is not
there, the voice mail announcement should clearly state when
their message will be processed.
- Remember, shorter
is always better. Instead of 'Enter the telephone number of
your party', simply say 'Enter the Number'
- If you need to
explain (or sell) something, make the long message an optional
submenu item that the user can select (or not).
- If you need to
give the user a phone number to write down, speak the number
slowly and repeat it.
Great article ... we
fight the gobbledygook battle every day with our Controlled English.
All your examples
are excellent. The best example we saw was in China ... "Turn
the valve 1 1/2 turn" ... OK they did 180 degrees - and $250,000
later figured out that error.
We have placed your
article on our reading list - thanks for a job well done.