Back to all posts

Title case vs sentence case in ui

A little thing like capitalisation can be a big deal

Can you spot the differences with the messages above? The left side has a few more capital letters than the right side. Big O, little o. Who cares, right?

Well, if you write for an app or website, you should care. A little thing like capitalisation can actually be a big deal. Capitalisation affects readability, comprehension, and usability. It even impacts how people view your brand.

We’ll get to the juicy stuff in a bit, but first, let’s start with a little more background about capitalisation.

Title case vs. sentence case

In most products and websites today, there are two ways to capitalise words:

  • Title case: Capitalise every word. This Is Title Case.
  • Sentence case: Capitalise the first word. This is sentence case.

If you’re an Apple user, you’ll notice a lot of title case throughout their products. That’s because Apple’s design guidelines recommend title case for many UI elements, including alert titles, menu items, and buttons.

If you’re a Google user, you’ll see a lot more sentence case throughout their products. And that’s because Google’s design guidelines recommend sentence case for almost everything.

Whether you’re on Team Apple or Team Google, Team iPhone or Team Android, it’s good to know what you’re getting into when you use title case or sentence case. Let’s take a closer look at each style.

What’s good about title case?

First, let’s see why you might want to go with title case.

More symmetry

Some people think title case looks better because it’s more symmetrical. As long as your phrases are short, title case creates a nice visual rhythm to your words:

There’s beauty in symmetry, and sometimes that’s a good enough reason for a designer or writer to choose title case over sentence case.

More visual prominence

“Visual prominence” is just a fancy way of saying that title case stands out more. The capitalised letters act like raised hands 🙌, giving your title or heading more emphasis. Title case is especially useful if you can’t adjust font styles. It helps differentiate your title text from your body text.

Notice how the title on the left pops out more than the title on the right? The more it stands out, the more likely someone will actually read it.

More “gravitas”

Much like the word “gravitas,” title case gives your words a feeling of formality and importance. Sites like The New York Times and USA.gov primarily use title case. It’s Professional. Serious. Established.

Using title case is like dressing your words up in a suit. For certain brands, you might want your words to look like they mean business. If you’re in the business of security, for example, title case is more likely to feel professional and trustworthy compared to sentence case.

Imagine you’re a company exec. Which version feels more professional?

What’s good about sentence case?

Next, let’s see why you might want to go with sentence case throughout your product or website.

Easier to read

The biggest reason to use sentence case is that it’s easier to read, especially when the text gets long. Can You Imagine How Difficult It Would Be to Constantly Read Long Titles in Title Case?

That’s why it baffles me to see the screenshot below in Apple’s guidelines. (In case you were wondering, it’s the same screenshot I used earlier on.)

It pains me to read that alert title!

Easier to define

According to Google’s first UX writer, Sue Factor, one of the main reasons why Google decided to go with sentence case was because it was just easier to explain to designers and engineers. In a product interface, it’s not always clear what’s considered a “title.” Is a tab name a title? How about a settings checkbox? Or a confirmation message?

On top of that, there are multiple ways to do title case. Do you capitalise prepositions like “from” or “through”? How about articles like “the” or “an”? Depending on which style guide you follow, the exact rules for title case can be different. Below are the title case rules according to Apple:

OK, pop quiz. Should you capitalise the word “about”?

If you have multiple people writing for your product or website, it’s easy for people to forget all the rules when writing in title case. You can avoid this confusion by just using sentence case everywhere. There’s only one way to do sentence case, so it’s harder to goof up.

Friendlier

Just as title case looks more formal and serious, sentence case looks more casual and friendly. I’m a writer at Dropbox, and we intentionally write in sentence case because we want our brand to feel natural and approachable. We think our product’s voice sets us apart from our competitors, and using sentence case is one way for us to maintain that voice.

Can you feel the love?

Easier to spot proper nouns

Finally, sentence case also makes it easier to read phrases with proper nouns. Proper nouns are words that you’d always capitalise, like your name, New York City, or Microsoft.

A lot of companies nowadays give their features and products descriptive names like “Inbox” or “Calendar,” as opposed to whimsical names like “Spark” or “Fantastical.” If you use title case in all your buttons, it becomes unclear whether certain things are proper nouns or not—and that can affect usability.

Any other cases?

Title case and sentence case are the two most popular styles of capitalisation, but they certainly aren’t the only options out there.

Case in point: On Windows Phone 8, Microsoft used a lot of lowercase text throughout their interface, even for titles and buttons.

Lowercase aplenty in Windows Phone 8

Then there’s GIPHY, one of my favorite sites ever. Their site uses uppercase all over the place, which makes sense for them because meme text is usually written in all caps.

GIPHY: ALL CAPS FTW

Making a case for yourself

Title case and sentence case both have their advantages. Whichever direction you decide to go, just make sure you make an informed decision that makes sense for your brand. The worst thing you can do is to not have any standards at all, which eventually leads to inconsistencies that’ll be a pain to fix later.

Once your users start noticing inconsistencies, that’s when they start losing trust in your brand.

This article was originally posted at:
https://medium.com/@jsaito/making-a-case-for-letter-case-19d09f653c98

Can we take you from stuck to unstuck?

We'd love to hear from you

Call to action (CTA)

A call to action is a marketing term that refers to a prompt that invokes a response leading to a sale. When referring to a call to action (CTA) in the digital design world we usually mean the interactive element that leads to the next step in the experience - something that needs to be clicked or tapped.

User testing

User testing refers to a technique used in the design process to evaluate a product, feature or prototype with real users. There are several reasons why you might want to undergo usability testing, the most common is that it allows the design team to identify friction in a user experience they are designing, so that it can be addressed before being built or deployed.

WYSIWYG

WYSIWYG (pronounced WIZ-ee-wig) is an acronym for "What You See Is What You Get". It helps identify an an interface that allows user input resulting in an output that is rendered in a similar way. For example; a word processor application interface might resemble a piece of paper,so when printed the user can see how the output will appear.

Content Management System

A content management system (CMS) is an tool that allows a website editor/administrator to manage the content that is displayed. Websites are made of HTML and CSS to create pages. Pages can be hard-coded but would require technical development skills to make changes. A CMS usually allows a person without coding knowledge to amend existing and add new content to a website using a WYSIWYG interface.

Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design refers to a web page that dynamically adapts its layout to fit the size and orientation of the device on which it is viewed. A responsive design allows for a more optimised user experience across desktop and laptop computers as well as smartphones and tablets of varying sizes.

User Stories

User stories allow the functionality of a product or service to be expressed as written descriptions of an experience as seen from the users perspective. The writing of user stories creates a list of design and development tasks to complete in order to create any required functionality.

User Interface

A user interface (UI) is a conduit between human and computer interaction - the space where a user will interact with a computer or machine to complete tasks. The purpose of a UI is to enable a user to effectively control a computer or machine they are interacting with, and for feedback to be received in order to communicate effective completion of tasks.

Personas

A persona in UX Design is the characterisation of a user who represents a segment of your target audience. On a project you might create any number of personas to be representative of a range of user needs and desires. The solutions you design must answer these needs in order to deliver value to your target audience.

Card sorting

A great, reliable, inexpensive method for discovering patterns in how users would expect to find content or functionality. Card sorting is used to test the taxonomy of data with a group of subjects, usually to help inform the creation of the information architecture, user flow, or menu structure on a project.

Brainstorming

A technique used to generate ideas around a specific topic. Often done in groups, but can be done individuals. The process usually involves writing down all ideas around a topic onto paper, a whiteboard or stickies often implying some kind of association.

Minimum Viable Product

An MVP is a product that has the minimum set of features to prove the most essential hypothesis for a product. Businesses building a new product can create a Minimum Viable Product to prove that an idea is viable and warrants further investment. A further benefit being that the next stage of development can be informed by feedback obtained from testing that MVP.

Sitemap

A sitemap is a diagrammatic representation of a hierarchical system. It usually depicts the parent-sibling relationship between pages in a website, showing how sub pages might be arranged underneath their parent groupings. This arrangement forms a map of the site.

User journey

A user journey represents a sequence of events or experiences a user might encounter while using a product or service. A user journey can be mapped or designed to show the steps and choices presented as interactions, and the resulting actions.

Prototype

A prototype is draft representation built to test ideas for layout, behaviour and flow in a system. Prototypes are an indispensable tool for resolving a large number of potential issues in a concept or business before too many resources are deployed to put a design into production.

Wireframes

A Wireframe is a visual schematic that conveys a basic level of communication, structure and behaviour during the design of a system. Wireframes are low-fidelity designs that bypass including a detailed user interface or visual design, conveying just enough to get across the core idea.

Usability

To say something is usable is a qualitative statement about how easy that thing is to use. Usability is an assessment of how learnable a system is and how easy a user finds it to use. The usability of a system or product is a key factor in determining whether the user experience is a good one.

Information Architecture

Information architecture is the design and organisation of content, pages and data into a structure that aids users understanding of a system. A more organised system enables users to more easily find the information they require and complete the intended tasks.

UI Design

User Interface Design is the discipline of designing software interfaces for devices, ideally with a focus on maximising efficiency, responsiveness and aesthetics to foster a good user experience.

UX Design

The practice of User Experience (UX) Design is the coming together of many specific design related disciplines to improve the usability, responsiveness, uptake and aesthetics of a product or service.

User Experience

A general term that covers all aspects of a user's participation while engaging with something that has been designed. Usually when talking about User Experience in the digital design field it refers to the interactions, reactions, emotions and perceptions while using an app, service, website or product.

Got a problem to solve with your service? 

We'd love to hear about it. We can add value to any business that has a digital product/offering.

Book a FREE 30 min consultation

You can also call +44(0)20 3653 1310 or email us

Book a FREE 30min consultation