What makes a good error message? – Hacker Noon


Examples of bad errors

Too many systems fail to give a good error which leads to user frustration. Windows Blue Screen of Death (even has its own acronym BSOD) is probably one of the most cursed error messages:

For an operating system that is developed for non-technical end users, it has embarrassingly too little information. It fails to answer WHY, briefly touches briefly on WHAT and jumps to WHERE the error happened. The instruction for HOW to solve the error is generic and not very specific (because the WHY is often unknown).

2 decades later, Windows shows even less information and expects the user to pull out their phone and scan a QR code:

Examples of good errors

The web platform is much more flexible and leaves room for creativity with powerful tools.

404 (page not found) is a classic error on the browsers. While some sites just throw the error number at the user and expect them to figure out the rest, Hootsuit has an actionable button: go to the main page:

Can it be done better? Of course. List24 don’t leave you there, it suggests you to search and even offers you some alternative content to click on right away:

While some like Path show empathy:

Chrome totally distracts the users by offering them a game when it can’t connect to the internet:

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