The Delight of Error Messages: How to Make Users Feel Incompetent

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Error messages are an integral part of the user experience, often seen as a nuisance or a sign of failure. However, when crafted thoughtfully, error messages can be an opportunity to engage users, provide guidance, and even inject a touch of humor. In this video, we will explore the concept of turning error messages into delightful experiences that make users feel empowered rather than incompetent. We will also provide examples of error messages that successfully achieve this goal.
Clear and Friendly Language: Error messages should be written in a clear and friendly tone, avoiding technical jargon or condescending language. Instead of simply stating, "Error: Invalid input," consider a more user-friendly message like, "Oops! It seems like there's a small hiccup. Please double-check your input and try again."
Example: Twitter's "This Tweet is unavailable" message is concise and friendly, providing a clear explanation without making users feel at fault.
Contextual Guidance: Error messages should provide users with actionable guidance on how to resolve the issue. Instead of leaving users puzzled, offer specific instructions or suggestions to help them overcome the error. This can include links to relevant help articles or contact information for customer support.
Example: Airbnb's error message when searching for unavailable dates provides alternative suggestions and encourages users to adjust their search criteria.
Visual Cues: Visual cues can enhance error messages by drawing attention to the problem area or highlighting the required action. Utilize color, icons, or animations to make error messages more noticeable and visually appealing.
Example: Slack's error message for an invalid email address uses a red exclamation mark icon and highlights the problematic field, making it easy for users to identify and correct the error.
Injecting Humor: Humor can be a powerful tool to alleviate frustration and make error messages more memorable. However, it is crucial to strike the right balance and ensure that the humor does not undermine the seriousness of the error.
Example: GitHub's "Oops! Something went wrong" error message is accompanied by a cute octocat image, adding a touch of lightheartedness while still acknowledging the error.
Personalization: Personalized error messages can make users feel understood and valued. Tailor error messages based on the user's context, previous actions, or preferences to create a more empathetic experience.
Example: Netflix's error message when a user tries to access content not available in their region acknowledges the user's location and suggests alternative content that is accessible.

Error messages are an opportunity to turn a potentially frustrating experience into a delightful one. By using clear language, providing contextual guidance, incorporating visual cues, injecting humor, and personalizing the messages, we can make users feel empowered rather than incompetent. Remember, error messages should not be seen as a failure but as an opportunity to engage users and enhance their overall experience.

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