If only all error messages were more helpful. Unfortunately, some point in time somewhere, we come across error messages that trigger The Hulk hidden within us. Be it trying to decipher what did you miss out on an online application form, why the website is not working, why you are unable to execute certain commands, why the programme cannot be compiled, why the programme cannot be compiled, WHY THE PROGRAMME CANNOT BE COMPILED???… Apologies, nightmares from coding classes still linger… Well, the list just goes on and on.
Upon encountering an error, what we really need is a solution. We need useful help. Many times, error messages raise more questions than providing us with any leads to an answer, especially technical ones like:
How about one that does not make any sense:
We eat the humble pie and click “OK” without knowing what went wrong or what is the next step to take (did I hear the developers snigger…)
The Ideal Error Message
An error message should not make us feel like “it is the end”. Useful feedback provided by an error message to prompt the next step to take would be greatly appreciated. It should aid us in solving the problem. Such feedbacks can come in the form of increased visibility:
Or provide us with a help tab or a link to solutions online:
The bottom line is not to leave the user blank and frustrated. In a nutshell, a good error message should possess the following:
- Catch the user’s attention!!!
- Clear visibility (in pointing out the error)
- Explain what went wrong and why
- Understood by anyone (avoid technical jargons)
- Provide leads to solving the problem (help/link button)
That said, erroneous error messages continue to be part and parcel of our lives; they are almost inevitable. Be surprised! 😉