Re: Error messaging best practices

18 Jan 2004 - 4:42pm
10 years ago
1 reply
651 reads
Jeff Howard
2004

Ryan,

37signals' Design Not Found archives might be helpful here. Lots of good
(and bad) contingency design examples.
http://www.37signals.com/dnf/snapshots/

For my part, I think delivery depends on the nature of the error
messages. If you're only showing one error that's easy to remember, find
and correct, then a simple dialog box is sometimes enough. Multiple
errors though (like blank required fields) are more elegantly handled by
annotations on page. Here's an example that I worked up a few years ago.
http://www.howardesign.com/sites/error/

As to content, avoid programmer-speak. Credit card authorization codes
and web server error codes aren't helpful. Try to anticipate the most
common errors, and write concise messages that offer a solution when possible.

// jeff

> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> Message: 1
> Date: Fri, 16 Jan 2004 08:16:18 -0800 (PST)
> From: Ryan Powell <ryansfus at yahoo.com>
> Subject: [ID Discuss] Error messaging best practices
> To: discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> Message-ID: <20040116161618.27376.qmail at web14309.mail.yahoo.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
>
> I'm looking for info on best practices / guidelines for error messaging
> (for forms on the web)- both the content of the message and the way
> errors are brought to the user's attention.
>
> Does anyone know of any good sources? Or maybe just a site that has an
> interesting solution?
>
> Thanks,
>
> Ryan Powell
> HSBC
> Chicago, IL
>

Comments

19 Jan 2004 - 11:13am
FelcanSmith, Mark
2004

To Jeff's point about offering a solution, I couldn't agree more. Too
often I've seen error message implementation only go half way. Which is
to say it's one thing to point out the error, but it's not a solution.
The message needs to inform the user, in polite manner, with a solution
on how to fix the problem and move on. I've heard, and try to use when
applicable, the term *user assist messages*. This conveys to those
involved, e.g. developers, that we are trying to do more for the user
than just point out the fact that an error occurred.

One other thing I'd like to mention is the consistency of the language.
A controlled vocabulary, a common voice to how this information is
conveyed to the user will be a direct reflection on the overall
experience.

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
ers.com]On Behalf Of Jeff Howard
Sent: Sunday, January 18, 2004 3:42 PM
To: discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com
Subject: [ID Discuss] Re: Error messaging best practices

Ryan,

37signals' Design Not Found archives might be helpful here. Lots of good
(and bad) contingency design examples.
http://www.37signals.com/dnf/snapshots/

For my part, I think delivery depends on the nature of the error
messages. If you're only showing one error that's easy to remember, find
and correct, then a simple dialog box is sometimes enough. Multiple
errors though (like blank required fields) are more elegantly handled by
annotations on page. Here's an example that I worked up a few years ago.
http://www.howardesign.com/sites/error/

As to content, avoid programmer-speak. Credit card authorization codes
and web server error codes aren't helpful. Try to anticipate the most
common errors, and write concise messages that offer a solution when
possible.

// jeff

> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> Message: 1
> Date: Fri, 16 Jan 2004 08:16:18 -0800 (PST)
> From: Ryan Powell <ryansfus at yahoo.com>
> Subject: [ID Discuss] Error messaging best practices
> To: discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> Message-ID: <20040116161618.27376.qmail at web14309.mail.yahoo.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
>
> I'm looking for info on best practices / guidelines for error
messaging
> (for forms on the web)- both the content of the message and the way
> errors are brought to the user's attention.
>
> Does anyone know of any good sources? Or maybe just a site that has an
> interesting solution?
>
> Thanks,
>
> Ryan Powell
> HSBC
> Chicago, IL
>
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