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The Microsoft Manual of Style: The User Interface

Content for multiple platforms

With the proliferation in new technologies, writers and editors face new challenges in creating content that is appropriate for devices as diverse as computers, phones, TVs, and game consoles. When you create content that will be published on different devices, you must decide what terminology to use and how to write for screens of various sizes.

Before you start writing content or user interface text that will appear on different devices, consult with designers, developers, and localizers on your project to establish the guiding principles that will be used to govern the design, user flows, and user interface text. Ensure that everyone is working from the same frame of reference. Examples of guiding design principles include the following:

  • There will be virtually no differences among the user interfaces of various devices.

  • There will be some differences in the user interfaces to ensure that the user isn’t confused about where to perform actions.

  • There will be a number of differences in the user interface to accommodate the various devices.

After the design principles have been established, consider the following guidelines when writing the content:

  • Be as specific as possible when referring to the device being used. For example, if you’re talking about a phone, and only a phone, use phone. Don’t use device, especially if you are writing content for a general audience.

  • If your content refers to more than one device, such as a phone and a computer, device is most likely the appropriate term.

  • Decide how you will document device-specific user interactions when the user interface or user action varies across devices. For example, you might use a table, as in the following example.

To spin 180 degrees

On this device

Do this

Xbox

Press Y.

PC

Click Spin.

Phone

Tap Y.

For more information about documenting alternative procedures, see Chapter 6, “Procedures and technical content.”