Home > User Experience > On writing error messages. Quick checklist for UX designer | by Nick Babich | Sep, 2020

On writing error messages. Quick checklist for UX designer | by Nick Babich | Sep, 2020

On writing error messages. Quick checklist for UX designer | by Nick Babich | Sep, 2020


Quick checklist for UX designer

Error state is a condition that prevents users from completing a task. Poorly written error messages can easily frustrate your users.

The best error message is the one that never shows up. However, when error state occurs, error message should describe problem (explains what happened and why) and offer a solution (it should let users know what they can do about it).

Below are 8 things you should avoid when writing error messages:

  • Blame users. Do not make the user feel at fault even when the error state results from their action.
  • Show raw errors. Error messages which contain a system internal error codes or abbreviations such as “Error 12315 has occurred” are cryptic. They are typically written for developers, not for end-users.
  • Use jargon. Speak the same language as the user; use terminology that the target audience understands. If your product has several roles of users (i.e., developers and regular users), it’s better to write a separate message for each role.
  • Write long sentences. Nobody likes to read long passages of text. Good sentence Length is 15 to 20 words. Trim all optional words in your message but ensure you don’t sacrifice clarity.
  • Show generic messages. A vague error message like “Error. Please try again later” won’t give users any clue on what they should do next.
  • Use uppercase and exclamation points. By writing in uppercase you make users feel like you’re yelling on them.
  • Put the message out of place. Don’t make users hunt for error messages. Always put the message in the context of action. If you want to inform the user about an error occurring in a particular field — show it next to the field.
  • Anthropomorphize. Unless you design AI assistants, it’s better not to imply that programs can think or feel.

Interactions between computers and humans should be as intuitive as conversations between two humans. Interaction Design Foundation will help you to learn how to design for efficiency and persuasion.



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