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