mouse button labels in space

Subject: mouse button labels in space
From: John Gough <gough -at- AUSTIN -dot- ASC -dot- SLB -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 12:49:15 -0500

The thread to date is drifting toward head-nodding
on the concept of giving abstract names to mouse

Reality check: our job is to make complex, abstract
things simpler to use--often this means making things
more concrete, rather than abstract.

The solution proposed takes an issue (use "right"/"left" or not?)
and favors the abstract over the concrete.

Scenario: I use three different computer systems in my
office. Each of them uses abstract terms for their mouse
buttons--not the same ones. I go nuts because I have to
look up the name map or paste stickies to my monitor to
remind me how to perform the simplest possible action.
(This is a true story.)

I personally think it makes better instructional sense to
use the concrete terminology. Use the preface of the manual
to explain that that is what you are doing, and mention that
left-handed users *might* have their mouse settings reveresed,
and to interpret the manual accordingly. Some
lefties I know use right-handed (or anatomically neutral) mice,
which means that left-, middle-, and right-click work for them
as terms anyway.

Bottom line: I think a manual's first concern is clarity. Backing the
terminology out to use abstract terms actually reduces clarity, and
ends up hurting *everyone* in the attempt to serve a minority.
Sure, some lefties will complain. Some people
will complain about anything. I personally have system preferences
that are not the universal norm, and I correspondingly take
the responsibility to configure the system to meet my needs
and adapt my interpretation of manuals as necessary.

BTW, if my audience were mostly lefties with left-handed mice,
I would write the manual for them. OK, quick show of hands:
how many of you checked for handedness in your usability
questionnaires or tests? :-)

Life goes on.

John Gough gough -at- austin -dot- asc -dot- slb -dot- com
Technical Consultant johngough -at- aol -dot- com
Schlumberger -- Austin Product Center C1.147 -- (512) 331-3656

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