In search of missing error messages

03Aug09

The only thing more annoying than getting the same error message over and over again is getting no error message at all. In other words, you’re trying to complete a certain task, everything looks normal, but you don’t get the results you expected. Maybe you click a button and nothing happens, or you send an email that never arrives — all without any indication that something went wrong.

As someone who works with software every day, I understand there may be complex technical reasons why error messages can’t always be displayed. Maybe it’s up to the browser or email server to return the error, and the people who designed those systems never bothered writing an error message for the particular error that took place. But no matter whose fault it is, you should always strive to give customers visible feedback when things don’t work properly. Otherwise, you leave them confused and wondering if they did something wrong. Their opinion of your product may suffer, even if your software had nothing to do with the error in the first place.



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