You Have Got An Error Message! Who Do You Blame?

Follow these steps:

1. Login to Twitter

1. Disconnect Internet

2.  Try tweeting (i.e. hit the ‘Tweet’ button).

And this is what you get:


Did you notice that Twitter takes the blame on itself for site misbehavior, instead of suggesting you that you aren’t connected to Internet?

I earlier wrote How Helpful Are Your Error Messages [DNA of Great Products] and compared how Chrome, Firefox and IE treat a very common use-case  (i.e. accessing the web when you are offline) in a different fashion.

So why is it that developers do not throw exact error message? Well, because it means iterating into deeper logic layers/‘else’ statements and that translates to higher utilization of processing resource (and time).

Fair point.

But if you OWN the product (as an entrepreneur, product manager) and bet your life on it, would you not throw helpful error message and earn some product love?

If you have a web application, do take a look at how you are handling error messages – do you blame yourself for the error, or you empower the user with a useful error message so that the user can take corrective action?

A lot of that is probably a function of company DNA and their approach towards customer support/service.

I am not really sure why Twitter doesn’t provide a helpful error message, but one logic could be that Twitter is known to have scaling issues (failwhale et al) and that’s why (maybe) they have taken a defensive approach to handling error messages.

But is that useful to the user? NO.

Tell us how do you treat error messages in your product? What’s your take on Twitter’s approach?

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