Have you ever wondered how Microsoft feature teams make their UI text decisions? Until I came to work at Microsoft, I certainly did. One of the most important word selections of all time was “Start”. Why didn't they choose “Go” instead? Raymond talks about this in his seminal post, Why do you have to click the Start button to shut down? The selection of the word “Microsoft” was another momentous decision. I once heard a local comedian refer to Microsoft as the very, very small and not so hard software corporation. Chevrolet once made the mistake of naming a car Nova, which means “does not go” in Spanish. Oops.
The words, or UI text, that appear in your Windows and Web applications are as important as any other design element. Great UI text is the foundation of a usable, self-documenting user interface. Great UI text teaches the user how to do things on the sly, without insulting their intelligence. While no user interface will ever be 100% self-documenting, you can get pretty close. Here are a few guidelines and ideas that might help you choose great UI text: