Error Messages

The best error mes­sages are the ones that nev­er show up at all. When writ­ing an error mes­sage, first ask your­self if it could be avoid­ed with improve­ments to the design. But even with the most thought­ful­ly designed expe­ri­ences, errors are some­times unavoidable.

While errors can be frus­trat­ing for users, fol­low­ing these best prac­tices can quick­ly put users back on track.

  • Give the user the infor­ma­tion they need and instruct them on how to resolve the error.
  • Be spe­cif­ic about what went wrong. Avoid vague phras­es like, Oops, some­thing went wrong.”
  • Leave out the tech­ni­cal jar­gon. References to code or even error types names aren’t very help­ful to our users.
  • Get to the point. 200 char­ac­ters or less should do.
  • Don’t apol­o­gize for every sin­gle error, it quick­ly becomes ingenuine.
  • There’s no need to place blame. Mistakes hap­pen — our users are human and so are we. Being polite goes a long way.
    • Avoid phras­es like You did…” or Your action caused…”
  • Exclamation points don’t help. You only get a few to play with any­ways, and error mes­sages aren’t the place for them.

Error mes­sages can be found in form fields, notes, notices, toasts and alerts. Work with a design­er to deter­mine the con­text and the appro­pri­ate com­po­nent that gives the user the best experience.

Last Updated: 12 May 2020 at 11:32am CDT