Designing for “No Connection”

Providing a decent experience when the network fails is quite important. It’s quite common to see that the users are let down during such error scenarios.

Some of the common patterns of poor experiences are:
1. Not showing any information on what caused the problem.
2. Not telling the user of any possible solution.

Here we will analyze some of the applications that do a GREAT job and the others who literally have no CLUE on what happened and leaving the user in the dark.


  1. Digit : Message is quite clear and they have taken care to build this screen for their end users.

2. Instagram : Clear, called out in red, and clearly indicates the problem and solution.

3. Mint Bills : Mint has also taken effort to present the problem and solution well. But I don’t understand how a Restart App button is going to resolve the issue. But overall not a bad experience.


All the poor experiences have the common patterns of technical jargon, no clear direction for the user, and not showing any message indicating the problem.

Generic message does not help. Is it the app or the connection?
Ok how many tries will push and complete the request ? :)
At the least, Whatsapp says that the issue is with network
500px — big fail…No clue on what is wrong :(
So who cares about NSURLErrorDomain? I really don’t ! :)

Users really need clear direction and some handholding when things go wrong. I am in the middle of a call and I need to transfer that money or send that email, I need to be clearly notified that it is not possible unless I am near a Wifi network. Otherwise I might be just cursing my luck or the application.

Don Norman has a great point on error messages:

Error messages punish people for not behaving like machines. It is time we let people behave like people. When a problem arises, we should call it machine error, not human error: the machine was designed wrong, demanding that we conform to its peculiar requirements. It is time to design and build machines that conform to our requirements. Stop confronting us: Collaborate with us.