History Of The OK Button

Via Kareem Mayan’s blog, I came across this story from 1982, when the Apple Lisa team decided upon using “OK” on the confirmation buttons in stead of “Do It”:

When the software required confirmation from the user, it displayed a small window called a “dialog box”, that contained a question, and presented two buttons, for positive or negative confirmation. The buttons were labeled “Do It” and “Cancel”. The designers observed that a few users seemed to stumble at the point that the dialog was displayed, clicking “Cancel” when they should have clicked “Do It”, but it wasn’t clear what they were having trouble with.

Finally, the team noticed one user that was particularly flummoxed by the dialog box, who even seemed to be getting a bit angry. The moderator interrupted the test and asked him what the problem was. He replied, “I’m not a dolt, why is the software calling me a dolt?”

It turns out he wasn’t noticing the space between the ‘o’ and the ‘I’ in ‘Do It’; in the sans-serif system font we were using, a capital ‘I’ looked very much like a lower case ‘l’, so he was reading ‘Do It’ as ‘Dolt’ and was therefore kind of offended.

After a bit of consideration, we switched the positive confirmation button label to ‘OK’ (which was initially avoided, because we thought it was too colloquial), and from that point on people seemed to have fewer problems.

Read all of the story at: Folklore.org: Do It

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4 Responses to “History Of The OK Button”

  1. Tobias Says:

    I also just recently read this story — but via History of the Button; http://www.historyofthebutton.com/2007/05/01/the-ok-button-origins/

    Btw: You have a typo in the URL for Folklore.org link.

  2. Jesper Rønn-Jensen Says:

    @Tobias: Thanks for reporting that typo. Fixed.

  3. Arkadiusz Says:

    Great story!!

    The story behind OK itself is also interesting. I have just read that it was used as abbreviation to “all correct”:-)

    Strange world

  4. Binh Nguyen Says:

    Interesting. No wonder your blog is so famous… it’s good-to-read stuffs you have. OK!