Simon Harriyott

Usability Tip - Phonetic Output

This week I had occasion to write a small Windows utility for a support team. Somebody would phone a, er, supporter for an n character alphanumeric code. The supporter would use the utility to generate the string and read it back to the caller.

Being a usability fan, I made the string really big, used Courier New to ensure even spacing, and lower case, to allow easy distinguishing of o and 0. I was quite pleased, so I showed an associate of mine. He said that it should have the phonetic alphabet (Sierra Golf Victor etc.), as that's how they read them out to the customer.

What a great idea! Using Wikipedia and the world's simplest code generator, it took me half an hour to knock something up. I put the words three to a line, and alternated the colours to make it easier to read out. So, here it is:


Hotel Whiskey Golf
Four Kilo Oscar
One Seven Lima
Papa Three Juliet
Sierra Alpha Romeo

I would certainly prefer the words to the string. I'm not totally sure about the font; there must be better. I didn't have the time to experiment too much, but I'm still very happy with the idea.

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5 January 2007