Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Error messages: the hall of shame

I spotted the error message below in an internet banking app on my phone:
There is currently no network connection. Please check you have a internet connection or try again later.
Looks like the bank forgot to proofread its error messages before its app went up on the App Store.

Error messages: who writes ‘em?
Are error messages written by a different team to the people who write the other, more visible content of an app or web site? Are error messages considered less important than other content and so the messages are not checked?

Error messages: why bother crafting 'em?
Error messages appear onscreen when something’s gone wrong, and people may be in a bad mood because of what’s just happened.

Surely that means they’re among the most important bits of content on a site or an app. Strike the wrong tone, and you could enrage someone who was only mildly annoyed.

Smart casual?
Personally, I don’t like error messages that are too casual, like bitly’s ‘uh oh’ below. Casual messages make me feel as if a company doesn't care that I've just wasted time having to re-log in.

bitly error message

Trying too hard
Neither do I like error messages that try too hard, giving you too much information, like First Direct's below.

First Direct long error message

Numbers are bad
And as for error messages that have numbers in, well I thought all companies had realised they needed to remove the geeky numbers and reword the message?
Google 500 internal server error message

BT’s 533 email below didn't fill me with glee.

BT email about error 533

As Elton John said: "Sorry seems to be the hardest word." All I want is a simple 'Sorry' and a link to the home page or quick advice on how to finish doing what I was doing. The most inoffensive error message I've come across recently was on the Fatface website.

Fatface error message

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