The usability 101 series continues. Over the past few days, we’ve covered learnability, efficiency, and memorability. Today, we will cover errors, how well the system should prevent them and how it should allow recovery from them.
You may design the perfect system but eventually, your system will fail. How it does so, however, can make all the difference in the world in terms of usability. As a general rule, users are at their most vulnerable stage when a computer program breaks. It may be because they’ve lost some work or it may be because they don’t like it when computers tell them that what they did did not work. Either way, anyone evaluating software will consider switching application if errors are too common. You may build the best application in the world in terms of future but none of that will matter when your program breaks… unless you can steer the user in the right direction when it comes to responding to errors.
In order for an error message to be helpful to the user, it needs to include a number of elements:
As I pointed out earlier, error messages generally do not make a user feel good. Because of that, there are certain things that you should consider in the presentation of your error message.
Icons: Be careful of what icons you use to present your error messages (if you plan to use icons). A good example of this was the small bomb on the original mac computers. When an Apple Mac crashed, it would show an icon presenting a little bomb. Users in many country were terrified by this icon and would not touch the computer, for fear that it would explode. This is a true story, which should highlight how careful you should be when considering icons related to errors.
So remember that errors will happen but that what will make all the difference in the world is if they are handled properly.
© Tristan Louis 1994-present Some rights reserved.