Thursday, February 25, 2010

Do It, Dolt

User testing at Apple Computer, June 1982:

When the software required confirmation from the user, it displayed a small dialog box that contained a question, followed by two buttons for positive or negative confirmation. The buttons were labeled Do It and Cancel. The designers observed that a few users seemed to stumble at the point the dialog was displayed and clicked Cancel when they should have clicked Do It, but it wasn’t clear what they were having trouble with.

Finally, the team noticed one user was particularly flummoxed by the dialog box and seemed to be getting a bit angry. The moderator interrupted the test and asked him what the problem was. He replied, “I’m not a dolt. Why is the software calling me a dolt?”

It turns out he wasn’t noticing the space between the “o” and the “I” in “Do It” (in the sans-serif system font we were using, a capital “I” looked very much like a lower case “l”) so he was reading “Do It” as “Dolt” and was offended.

After a bit of consideration, we switched the positive confirmation button label to “OK” — which was initially avoided because we thought it was too colloquial — and from that point on people seemed to have fewer problems.

Andy Hertzfeld, Revolution in the Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made (Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly, 2005), 108–109.
A slighty different version of this story may be found at

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