UX & Error Messages: Stop Scaring Your Users!

Jennifer Aldrich
Aug 23, 2015 · 3 min read

In my last life, before I became a UX pro, I was a software trainer. I traveled all over the country and worked with users of all ages, teaching them how to use various software solutions. I have a psychology background, so one of the things I always found fascinating was users’ reactions to error messages.

The product I trained on did a really great job of calmly alerting users that something weird had occurred. It had a friendly professional voice, and kept a consistent tone.

A majority of the training I did was on the flagship CMS product. Most of the users I was working with were trying to wrangle content out of 3rd party products to transfer it into our CMS. The 3rd party products often had nightmare-ish UI’s and horrible UX, unfortunately.

On countless occasions, the 3rd party products threw absolutely horrible, scary looking error messages.

It’s incredible the impact that friendly error messages can have on UX. One day I had two users sitting right next to one another in a lab, one of them working in a 3rd party program and another working in our product. They happened to error out simultaneously. The 3rd party product displayed a giant red X, with the word ERROR in all caps and a pile of script in a huge font beneath it. The user gasped, closed the browser and shot back in his chair like the screen had tried to bite him.

The user who received the error in our product read a message similar to, “Something weird just happened on our end, sorry about that. Please refresh your screen and try that again.” The error code was listed in small text below the message, as well as an expand option for folks to view the error details if they so desired.

She grinned at me and said, “Oh boy, you’re in trouble now!” And refreshed her screen and continued editing.

The actual errors they encountered were very similar, but their experiences with the messages were VASTLY different. When you’re designing products and websites, don’t forget to pay attention to the little big details like humanizing your error messages. It can make an absolutely HUGE difference in UX!

This article was originally posted on UserExperienceRocks.com on May 8, 2014.

Published in Startups, Wanderlust, and Life Hacking

-

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Join The Startup’s +792K followers.

Sign up for Top 10 Stories

By The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Subscribe to receive The Startup's top 10 most read stories — delivered straight into your inbox, once a week. Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Jennifer Aldrich

Written by

UX Blogger ~ Product Designer ~ Sr Mgr of Design Community Partnerships @InVisionApp Opinions are my own ❤ (© 2014–2019 Jennifer Aldrich)

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +792K followers.

Jennifer Aldrich

Written by

UX Blogger ~ Product Designer ~ Sr Mgr of Design Community Partnerships @InVisionApp Opinions are my own ❤ (© 2014–2019 Jennifer Aldrich)

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +792K followers.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store