Error messages are one of the most essential elements in the world of UX design and UX writing. Although these messages play an important role in improving the user experience, their non-original presentation to the user may place them in the mind of the audience as a disturbing factor.
You must have had the experience of working with a website or an application where you faced a large number of error messages; Without even knowing what these errors are and what you should do to fix them. Most of the error messages contain dumb and unintelligible expressions for the user. The user may not have the technical knowledge to recognize these errors. An unknown error occurs right in the middle of an important operation, such as payment on the site, and causes the user to abandon his operation and quickly leave the website.
Error messages are critical tools in UX design and can be very effective in communicating problems and providing solutions to your audience.
In this article, we want to discuss the importance of error messages in UX and their impact on the user experience.
Table of Contents
What is the error message?
An error message is a system interruption that informs the user during the activity of the website or application that an incomplete, inconsistent, or unfavorable situation has occurred during the execution of a certain operation in the system.
These messages are usually not designed properly and negatively affect the quality of the user experience of the product. Many product development and design teams do not pay enough attention to the improvement and design of error messages and ignore them. Unaware that error messages are annoying and ineffective for users, and instead of being used as a useful tool for notifying problems and providing solutions in the user experience of the product, they become an annoying factor for the user and eventually make the user leave the website. he does.
The importance of design and texts of error messages in product design
Writing the text of error messages and designing it is one of the most important parts of the work of the product design and UX writing team. Since the main goal of UX design is to improve the user experience, as a result, the goal of UX writing is to write short website texts to guide the user and thus improve the user experience when using the product.
UX writer is a member of the product design team who is responsible for writing error messages in the digital product. Next to the UX writer are the UI and UX designers, whose task is to design these messages and how to display them in the product.
In this article, we’ll explore 12 guidelines for generating error messages. Instructions are divided into 3 general categories:
- Visibility instructions: how to display the error message to users.
- Communication instructions: Information that the error message conveys about the problem and possible solutions.
- Efficiency Improvement Guidelines: How the error message helps the user to solve these problems.
- Display the error message close to the source of the error.
The error message should be displayed close to where the error occurred. Also, display that error with a marker next to where the error occurred. This helps users to easily spot the error.
- Use recognizable markers.
Highlighting the text of the error message with a different weight and color (preferably red) is very important. Another technique to improve error detection is to use animations to draw the user’s visual attention to the error.
When using color as an error indicator, be sure to remember that approximately 350 million people worldwide are color blind. For this reason, it is better not to use color alone to display errors.
- Design errors according to their effects.
Not all error messages are the same. They should be designed to determine the severity and importance of the problem. Sometimes it is enough for users to receive a warning about unexpected or unwanted events and at the same time, they can continue their work. The UX designer must distinguish between messages that warn users and have little impact on the user’s work, and messages that prevent users from progressing.
- Avoid premature error display.
The correct timing of error display is one of the most important factors that should be considered. Showing an error early hurts the user experience. It’s like grading a student on a test before they’ve had a chance to answer. This can cause users to feel uncomfortable or confused.
- Use understandable language for error messages.
Try to make the error message in simple and fluent language so that users can easily understand it. Do not use technical terms. Also, avoid using complex codes or abbreviations.
- Briefly and accurately explain the issue.
General error messages like “An error occurred!” It is not enough for the user alone. It is better to provide a detailed description of the problem so that users understand what happened. As mentioned, you should be careful not to use too many technical details that make it difficult for the user to understand the message. The user’s mental model of how the system works is usually different from how it is coded, so we must use terms and language that users can easily understand.
- Provide a solution.
In error messages, you shouldn’t just state the problem. Try to offer constructive and useful solutions to the user.
For example, if a product is out of stock in an online store, instead of saying “the product is out of stock”, provide more information about when the product may be available again or ask users to enter their email or phone number to receive the product. Enter the product return message.
- Have a positive tone and don’t blame the user.
In the text of the error messages, use a positive and non-critical tone. Avoid language that accuses users or makes them feel like they’ve done something wrong (such as “illegal” or “wrong”). The responsibility for the correct functioning of the system should return to its creators and not to the users.
Guidelines for improving efficiency
- Avoid possible mistakes.
If you are one of those users who have been working with Gmail or Yahoo for years, you must remember that in the past, when sending an email, you might hit the send button without wanting to, when the text of the email is not yet ready to be sent. Send a half-baked email. In such a situation, there was no way back.
But today, this problem has been fixed in Gmail and Yahoo applications. When you click on the Send button, a message will be displayed for you to send an email if you confirm and avoid such mistakes. As a result, the UX designer and UX writer should be careful that the digital product does not cause unwanted discomfort to the users.
- Allow the user to correct errors.
In managing errors in a website or application, we need to allow users to correct their mistakes without having to start a certain process from scratch.
- Facilitate the error correction process for users.
Try to make the error correction process simple for users. For example, instead of just writing “city and zip code do not match” to fill out a form, give users the option to click a button to see which city matches the entered zip code and select it. do
- If needed, briefly explain how the system works.
Briefly explain to users how the system works and how they can resolve an error. If additional information is needed, use internal links so that when the user clicks on them, they will be taken to a page with additional information or a problem description. (Of course, don’t overdo it.)