Usability of Error messages

While designing ‘Error’ messages or ‘Error’ page for website, mobile site or any application, we should always keep ‘Usability of Error messages’ in mind. Error can come from user or by system (back end) but our system should show error messages properly. Heuristic Principles are the source for getting inspiration for designing it. Some of the key tips mentioned below to make ‘Error’ messages helpful.

Tips for 'Error Message' Usability

1. Don’t use Technical jargon in Error messages

Heuristic Principles - Match between system and real world
Many websites or interfaces show ‘Error’ messages in technical terms like ‘Null object exception’, ‘Java Lang etc file is missing’ etc. First of all understand carefully that normal user is not able to comprehend it. Show the error messages in plain text and in simple language.

2. What Error is occurred?

Heuristic Principles - Visibility of system status
Always show the error upfront to user and written in plain language that user can understand.

3. Reason or cause for this error

Heuristic Principles - Visibility of system statusTell why this error has been occurred, if user has made any wrong action or error is coming from system back-end, show the reason.

4. What should a user do now?

Heuristic Principles - Help user diagnose and recover from error
If error has been occurred and you have told him/her the reason next step is to show what he/she can do now. Like contact admin or choose correct path or make correct entry or wait for some time.

5. Help or direction for further steps

Heuristic Principles - Help user diagnose and recover from error & Help and documentation
Provide complete information about user actions. If user has to contact to Admin then show the contact details about Admin, if user has to wait then show how much time, if user has to make correct entry in any form then help him by providing a dummy entry.6. Be polite and humble

Don’t forget, user is in trouble because some error has been occurred in his/her system. At this time tone of error messages should be polite and relaxing to user.

Showing error messages - 

Best example of presenting Error message  - 


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