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User interface text guidelines

First, you should get to know Canonical's own style guide.

However, Launchpad has its own tone of voice and audience. We have developed our own approach to UI text and, while we're tweaking our approach to make sure Launchpad feels like part of the Canonical family, the way we write UI text in Launchpad is described here.

Tone of voice

Thousands of people, all around the world, use Launchpad to work on software projects. Launchpad is not what is important: it is just a way for those people to work on another project that has its own identity and personality.

Similarly, the majority of Launchpad page requests are made from countries whose primary language is not English.

Bearing both those things in mind, our tone of voice should be:

Check list

Common mistakes

These guidelines apply to web pages, e-mail messages, Atom feeds, IRC notifications, and any other media used in the future.

Don’t use this

Use this instead




this, these




this, these


not allowed


incorrect (or more specific error)




Launchpad or Launchpad’s bug tracker



Note that


please (unless announcing serious inconvenience)



Launchpad or Launchpad Translations





the following

this, these

the form


this form


this page


to the left

better page layout

to the right

better page layout


better text ordering


nothing (or, if in real danger, <strong>)


First person, second person

First person (I, me, my) should be used only in controls (buttons, checkboxes, radio buttons, etc). Everything else, including headings, should use second person (you, your).

As a user, you interact with the control, so it speaks as your voice (e.g. "Yes I do"). The rest of the web page is generated by Launchpad, and as such should speak with Launchpad's voice (e.g. "Yes you do").

Notifications, warnings, and errors

Follow the guidelines specified in AlertMessages.

Taking or cancelling actions

The actions at the end of a form should consist of a button, followed by the word "or" and a Cancel link:

( Summary of Action ) or Cancel

The "Cancel" link should return you to the page you came from. (To get this link, define the cancel_url @property in the browser class.)

Changing things or editing them

Only documents are edited, everything else is changed. Only use 'Edit' to describe actions where a document or something document-like is being edited.

e.g. A project description is a paragraph of text, and can be edited. The project's details, considered as a whole, can be changed.

Create or Register actions

Use "Register" when the thing exists outside of Launchpad. Users register projects, series, milestones, and teams in Launchpad.

Use "Create" when the thing exists exclusively in Launchpad. Users create PPAs, recipes, and bugwatches in Launchpad.

Some users are confused or angered when they read "create" for a thing that they know exists elsewhere. They believe Launchpad is claiming authority over the thing. This issue can often be avoided by selecting the correct verb.

Use a verb when the link triggers an action: e.g. "Register a bug".

State what data will be displayed when the link leads to a report of some kind: e.g. "23 <a>critical bugs</a>"

E-mail messages

These guidelines apply to all e-mail messages:

These guidelines apply to notifications not being sent on behalf of a Launchpad user:

Explaining things

We explain things in three ways:

UI text should always be direct and clear, with enough explanation that a new user can decide whether they need to get further information or disregard the feature.

Comments and suggestions

UserInterfaceWording (last edited 2011-08-04 10:00:28 by matthew.revell)