Undoubtedly, a good product should inform its users about an error, but the best products are those which prevent an error to happen in the first place. A good UX anticipates an error and helps users with error prevention.
It’s the fifth guideline of Nielsen’s Heuristics. Put in Nielson’s word,
Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action. read this
Ways to ensure Error Prevention –
Lay out the special instructions beforehand
There are just so many websites which let you choose your password, only to tell you later that the password can only be of a certain length or must have an alphanumeric character etc.
So if there are certain special conditions like
- The user can only upload a certain kind of document or
- The password can be of a certain type or
- The date entered can be of only a certain duration
your users will be pleased if these things are told to them beforehand.
This example illustrates error prevention perfectly. The users are given a feedback as well as they meet the right condition for the password.
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This is something that is often seen during a search on Google and certain e-commerce websites where the users get contextual search word suggestions while the user is typing.
Uber demonstrates its users where to find a CVV number and the expiration date of their card to support users who might not know where to find them.
While auto correct may seem like a good option for error prevention. Make sure that users have the controlled freedom in choosing whether or not to go with the auto-suggestion.
For example, if you mistype a word in Google search, though it gives the search result for the correct word, it still gives users the choice of searching for the word or phrase they typed before. Which is another heuristic — User Control and Freedom.
Make the user confirm
If the user has just clicked on the discard button, a simple confirmation message can help them retract from it if it happened by mistake.
Gmail asks their users if they have accidentally forgotten to attach a document. This is when the users have added the word attached or attachment
Github goes a step ahead and asks users to type out the repository name in case the user wants to permanently delete it.
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Don’t make them fill what you already have
Many e-commerce websites only ask for the 3 digit CVC or CVV number instead of asking you to write down the long card number to prevent any mistakes
The calendar apps like Google calendar give the smart default as current time and date. This is to avoid mistakes that might happen while fixing up a time for a meeting. It is not very unusual for users to pick up a wrong time or a year.
Could you think of an example where the interface prevents the error from happening?