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Dealing with uncertainty of the user

9:09 am on Aug 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I'm developing a dictionary website, and the aim is to keep things simple and clear for the users.

The dictionary is between two languages. There is a prominent search box in the header with a submit button sayings "Search the dictionary".

I've asked a couple of people to test it out. They all asked "does this search box search both languages?". They're not sure that if they type in an English word, that it will search for the translation in the other language. Or if they type in a word in the other language that they English translation will be found. (The answer is yes, it searches both directions.)

How would you suggest making it clear that a search box will search both languages?

Possible solutions:
- An info box popping up when they click on the form? (Hopefully not)
- Pre-fill the input box with a brief explanation? (Ok, but is messy again with Javascript).
- Somehow exmplain it with the submit button text?
- ... A simpler but clear solution?


11:26 am on Aug 11, 2008 (gmt 0)

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How about 2 checkboxes, Language 1 and Language 2, both pre-checked. That should make it obvious that it searches both languages. The user should be able to uncheck either box if they only want to search one language.
3:25 pm on Aug 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I use translators quite often.

As a sample of one my personal preference as a user is a single text field for the search term, and two submit buttons - one with the button text "translate to language a", the other "translate to language b".

Wordy, and takes space, but the things I like:

  • At a glance the button text tells me what I need to know to use the translator:
    # it translates in both directions (some don't)
    # what will happen if I "push" a given button
    # which button to "push" to get my desired result
  • I get started straight away:
    # no need to read "instructions" before going on to choose the correct text field as on sites that have one for each translation direction
    # even nicer if the text field has focus
  • Buttons with longer amounts of text are larger and so:
    # easy to "see/locate/find" on the page as I scan (I'm visual)
    # easy to "hit" with the mouse.
    # even nicer if the tab index works so I can keyboard direct from the text area