Language of Software – sketchnotes and slides

Des Traynor spoke to lots of developers from both the Sanger Institute and the EBI about content strategy for application developers. Read on for sketchnotes, slides and a note on “micro copy”.


I got down some sketchnotes during Des’ talk:

Sketchnotes from Des Traynor's talk, "The language of software"


His slides are on Speakerdeck, but due to the vagaries of having a free Wordpress site, I can’t actually embed them here (sorry).

You’ll notice that the slideshow linked to here actually says “The language of interfaces“, but all the content is exactly the same!

The language of interfaces (on Speakerdeck)

Micro copy framework

From my perspective, I think one of the best things we can take from this talk is the micro copy framework that Des showed us. He explained that he would use it in all cases. An example, taken from the talk, is:

Message for: Any user
To tell them: They don’t need to archive, it’s already been done
So they: Stop trying and move on
Displayed via: Flash box on app (60 char max)
When: When a user tries to archive a message that has already been archived
Tone: Clear, personal; as for a work colleague

Content, in this case micro copy, is being designed based on a clear understanding of the audience who will read it, and of the message we wish to convey. It struck me that all of this is (perhaps unsurprisingly) just like an extension of the sort of the thing that Caroline Jarrett and Gerry Gaffney discuss in their book. Forms That Work. Namely, the idea of creating a dialogue with your user via the interface. Be human!

A short note on copy

Copy, or the text we add to software (web or desktop) applications or web pages, comes in 2 or 3 main forms. It is useful to think about how best to design the following:

  • Long or macro copy = big blocks of text on a page or interface
  • Micro copy = labels for buttons or form elements, etc
  • Meta copy = the meta content (e.g. keywords and description) used in the <head> of web pages

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