Please try again


Apple is widely respected for the design and usability of its products. But even they slip up sometimes. Case in point: I was trying to help a friend order a printed photo book from iPhoto. Whenever we tried to create an Apple account and submit the order, it said “An error has occurred – Please try again later.” After many hours of trial-and-error, we learned that this error meant he already had an Apple account, and needed to use that instead of making a new one.

This is one of those things that makes me crazy: telling someone to “try again later” when the issue is certain to keep happening, no matter how long they wait or how often they try. A much better practice is to make your error messages indicate how to correct the issue, like: “Our records show you already have an account with us. Please click here to login.” Or, if your software is mired in legacy code and it’s very costly to add specific messages, at least make the generic errors more useful. You might say: “Sorry, we couldn’t process your request. Perhaps you have an account with us already, or you put some strange characters in your name. Please check your info and try again. If you still receive this message, contact us for help.”

I know it’s not the prettiest approach in the world, but at least it might help customers resolve the issue or encourage them to seek out help before they abandon the process entirely.