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1

Error message guidelines

According to Jakob Nielsen good error messages should:
- Clearly indicate that something has gone wrong
- Be in a human-readable language
- Be polite and not blame the users
- Describe the problem
- Give constructive advice on how to fix the problem
- Be visible and highly noticeable, both in terms of the message and how it indicates where things went wrong
- Preserve as much of the user's work as possible so that they don't have to do everything over again
- If possible, guess the correct action and let users pick it form a list of fixes
- Educate users by providing links to pages with an explanation of the problem

Links:

  • The article Error Message Guidelines

Henrik Olsen - June 13, 2005

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Tips and guidelines (61) 


 

2

Guidelines for helping people when things go wrong

A white paper by 37signals lists 20 rules for improving contingency design - design for when things go wrong.

1. Use language your customers understand
2. Be polite
3. Offer an escape route
4. Offer customized "Page Not Found" error pages
5. Make sure the browser's "Back" button works
6. Reduce the need for constant back-and forth between different pages to fix errors
7. Use highly visible color, icons, and directions to highlight the problem
8. Don't make customers guess
9. Briefly and clearly explain what's happening
10. Don't block content with ads
11. Use smart search technology that understands common mistakes
12. Don't offer too many or inaccurate search results
13. Help log-in with tips or by emailing information
14. Offer contextual FAQs
15. Answer e-mails quickly and effectively
16. Don't force registration in order to assist customers
17. Solicit feedback on contingency design
18. Provide a fallback plan
19. Learn from mistakes
20. Plan for failure

Links:

  • The white paper Contingency Design: Maximizing Online Profitability By Helping People When Things Go Wrong

Henrik Olsen - April 17, 2005

Permanent link Comments (2)

See also: Tips and guidelines (61) 


 

3

Server side usability - How to make web servers behave

Most usability professionals don't have a driver's licence to servers and are not aware of the step that can be taken to make them behave in a user-friendly way. The GUUUI Q4 2004 issue takes a look at how to avoid that server technology becomes an obstacle to usability.

The article suggests that we should:

- Make the "www" prefix optional
- Support "www" prefix typos
- Support domain name typos and spelling errors
- Support erroneous country codes
- Use tidy URLs
- Don't leave users in a dead end when a page cannot be found
- Alert users when a server error occurs
- Have a "We are updating" page ready

Henrik Olsen - October 01, 2004

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See also: GUUUI articles (7)  Tips and guidelines (61)  URLs (3) 


 

4

How to handle the Page Not Found error

Every site should handle the page not found error gracefully. Two quite similar articles have the following tips:
- Do not redirect people to the home page
- Let the visitor know that something unexpected is going on at first glance
- Do not call it "Error 404"
- Don't assume it's the visitor's fault
- Offer a site map
- Offer a search form
- Fix broken links
- Redirect outdated links to the new page locations

It's also possible to make 404 pages more intelligent by:
- Checking whether the link is an outdated bookmark and redirect to the new location
- Check whether it's a broken link in the site and notify the webmaster
- Check whether the link is from a search engine and use the search phrases to suggest relevant content (e.g. by doing an internal search)
- Add spell checking to catch minor typos in the URL

Links:

  • 'Not Found' Is Not An Option: Error Handling and User Experience
  • The Perfect 404

Henrik Olsen - September 15, 2004

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Tips and guidelines (61) 


 

5

Defensive Design for the Web (By 37signals)

How To Improve Error Messages, Help, Forms, and Other Crisis Points.

Learn 40 guidelines to prevent errors and rescue customers if a breakdown occurs. See hundreds of real-world examples from companies like Amazon, Google, and Yahoo that show the right (and wrong) ways to handle crisis points. Evaluate your own site's defensive design with an easy-to-perform test and find out how to improve it over the long term.

This is the first book from the innovative 37signals web design and usability experts Jason Fried and Matthew Linderman.

Their publication is praised by other web design and usability authorities such as Jeffrey Zeldman, Mark Hurst, and Steve Krug.

Links:

  • The book description at 37signals.com (Option to buy there)

Pieter-Jan Pruuost - March 17, 2004

Permanent link Comments (0)

See also: Books (31) 


Browse GUUUI postings

Methods and the design process

Usability testing (26)  Wireframing and prototyping (29)  Cost-justification and ROI (18)  The design process (13)  Personas (12)  Requirement Analysis (11)  Card sorting (8)  Implementing user-centred design (7)  Expert reviews (6)  Web log analysis (6)  Eye-tracking (6)  Site and flow diagramming (3)  Use Cases (3) 

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Navigation (40)  Web page design (22)  Search (20)  Guidelines and Standards (10)  Links (10)  Text (12)  Forms (11)  Ads (6)  Site design (8)  Shopping Charts (5)  Error handling (5)  Sections (3)  Home pages (2)  Design patterns (2)  E-mails (1)  Personalization (1)  Sitemaps (1)  Print-freindly (1) 

General aspects

E-commerce (21)  Accessibility (10)  Information architecture (10)  Persuasive design (10)  Visual design (11)  Search engines (7)  Credibility, Trust and Privacy (5)  Web applications (2)  Intranets (1) 

Technology

Flash (6)  URLs (3)  Download time (2)  Javascript (3)  Web standards (2)  Browsers (2) 

Humor

Cartoons (8)  Funny tools and games (9)  Bad designs (7)  Fun with Jakob Nielsen (6)  Designs with humor (3)  Fun music and videos (3)  Fun posters (2)  Funny 404 pages (2)  Misc humor (2) 

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Research (83)  Tips and guidelines (61)  Tools (49)  Books (31)  Cases and Examples (12)  Interviews (9)  Primers (8)  GUUUI articles (7)  Posters (5)  Online books (4)  Glossaries (2)  People and organisations (2) 

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Blogs (11)  Websites (9)  Discussion lists (4)  News (3)  Newsletters (3)  Online magazines (2)  Wikis (1) 

 

 
     
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