The only thing that is worse than an error is an error message that cannot be understood in plain language. I think by now, we have already discussed that it is extremely crucial to not use technical jargons. You must always help users recognise, diagnose, and recover from errors.
Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution. read here
Examples of help users recognise, diagnose, and recover from errors
Here are a few examples to discuss this guideline.
Dropbox: Don’t just tell them what happened, tell them what to do next
Should they refresh the page, should they try again later or should they simply not worry as probably it’s not their fault. Error messages that are simple and action-oriented empower users with an option.
Youtube: Tell that they are offline but can still watch the downloaded videos.
Don’t use incomprehensible error messages
If they have entered a wrong detail in a field, highlight it along with the feedback of what they might be doing wrong Tell them how they can recover from the errors.
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Twitter: Actionable error messages
In this way, you can help users recognise, diagnose, and recover from errors.
Etsy: Use colors to highlight errors (too)
Along with the written error message, it is a wonderful practice to highlight errors using colors. For errors, it’s usually recommended to use a shade of red as it matches the real world stop signals.
People with visual disabilities and color blindness cannot rely on colors only to identify errors.
Imagine if Etsy would have relied only on color to denote an error. This is how someone with a complete color blindness would have seen the error on the left side.
On the right side, it is done for users without a color blindness. What about the person who cannot see colors at all?
This is how Etsy uses both color and an error message to show error messages.
For many first time users or elder users, the errors and failure to recover from them can make them fearful of technology. Can you really blame the users if a system does not give them enough feedback to work on their errors?
Informing your users about an error and next steps is extremely crucial. If not done right can erode their trust and will not help users recognise, diagnose, and recover from errors.
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