I'm currently researching the options which I have, to build an 'Online Help System'. This system should offer the user information about dialogs - which consists mainly out of forms.

So my main question is: Is there any taxonomy/language to describe user interfaces? I have searched a lot on this subject matter, but end up with things like XUL. Which is not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for a structure / language / taxonomy to describe the user interface (of the dialogs). However, I'm not sure of its existence. Since I'm not, I would also be pleased with any (search) terms which are worth investigating in this case.

Besides this, I'm also looking for languages / taxonomies which are used for regular Online Help systems. The things I came across were: DocBook, DITA and MAML. Are there any other big players in this 'market'?

2 Answers 2


When documenting user interfaces for an end user, the most important guideline is to use terminology that's consistent for your platform. All of the major platforms have human interface guidelines (HIGs) that describe user interfaces and (in some cases) spell out what terminology to use in referring to user interface elements in end user documentation:

More broadly, there are discussions of user interface patterns. These kinds of taxonomies or patterns are more useful for designing your UI than they are for describing it to an end user, but they might at least give you some ideas.

Regarding online help systems, DocBook and DITA are the two main standards for writing documentation that I hear about. There are also software programs like RoboHelp and Help & Manual that can create online documentation.


Microsoft's Glossary of UI Terminology

Is the closest thing I can think of. If you're writing documentation for end users, you need to use industry-standard terms and simple, clear language. A taxonomy sounds like some sort of hierarchical categorization of elements, which is something the end user neither needs nor is interested in.

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