How to: give feedback when there’s no connection

What is a feedback?

Recently, I have been in Prague for a few days. I didn’t have a fast connection on my phone (for the most of the time, no connection at all) and there weren’t too many wifi spots to connect.
During my return flight, I took my phone, set it on airplane mode and I started taking screenshot of all my apps.

This is my reflection: the feedback is not just an unidirectional message to the user, but a way to make the user conscious of what is happening with product, enhancing his experience with it.

How can we do it?

1. Be honest.

A — “Hello, I want to order a Margherita to my place.”
B — “All set up for you Filippo. Your Pizza will arrive to your place in 40 minutes.”

What B is doing here is to create an expectation to A. If my Margherita is arriving in 1 hour and 43 minutes, B will be a liar.

A — “Why didn’t you tell me “more than 1 hour???”

How many times does it happen?

What happens with a product is exactly the same. What the product is saying doesn’t corresponds to the reality. Some bad examples here:

Source: Linkedin, Evernote for iOS

Linkedin

The profile is not available.

This is not true.
The profile of the person I want to see is available to everybody, but not for me, because I have a connection problem.

Evernote

Syncing…
Last synced: 29/04/2017 (today)

Syncing what?
My iPhone is set on airplane mode so it’s impossible that Evernote is syncing data. So a user would think: Is it my phone which is having a problem or is just Evernote? What should I do? Should I retry? Contact the assistance? Shut down the app?

Some good examples here:

Source: Google, AirBnb for iOS

Google

No Network Connection.
You are not connected to the internet. Check your connection and try again.

Truth hurts.
But in this case, truth is the most useful thing that a user wants to hear.

AirBnb

Unfortunately, a connection error prevented your request from being sent.
Please try again.

Thanks AirBnb.
This message is precise, true and kind.

Source: Trello for iOS

Trello

This is how every app should work. I can use Trello offline, but when I try to sync my notes pulling-to-refresh, the label says “Offline”. As simple as straight to the point.

2. Give possibilities.

When the product can’t provide all its functionalities to the user, the most useful thing to do is to give him a chance to do something else with it.

B — “I’m sorry Filippo, we have a long queue. Would you like a delicious cheeseburger instead of your desired Margherita? It’s faster!”
Source: Citymapper for iOS

Citymapper

A very functional example is the case of Citymapper. When the user has no connection, it offers the possibility to read and consult public transport offline maps. It gives him an alternative solution to a real problem.

3. Suggest solutions.

When the product can’t provide all its functionalities to the user there’s something that the user can do to solve the situation, but maybe he doesn’t know what are those operations.

Source: Google Chrome for iOS

Google Chrome

Try:
• Turning off aeroplane mode
• Turning on mobile data or Wi-Fi
• Checking the signal in your area

There’s always a cause for missing connections. Chrome helps us with three instructions. At least one of this is the cause.

Nothing changed? Just take a moment, and start jumping cactus.


Conclusions:

  • Be honest and refer to the real problem.
  • Give possibilities to support the user experience.
  • Suggest solutions to make the user able to solve the problem himself.
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