How Helpful Are Your Error Messages [DNA of Great Products]

First things first – Do you really need error messages to be helpful? Do you really need error messages that have a ‘call to action’ attached vs. ones that are pure generic in nature?

Before you answer, take a look at error messages browsers show when there is no Internet connectivity (all I did was that I launched the browser with no Internet connectivity).

Firefox Error Message


As generic as it could get.  Lists out all possible options.

Helpful? 1/5.

IE Error Message

Internet Explorer does Firefox ++, i.e. lists down all possible options and also suggests what else can I do, now that I am offline – i.e. a good way to surface few features.IE_error

Helpful? 1.5/5.

Chrome Error Message


Chrome clearly tells you that you are not connected to Internet’ and suggests steps you should take to fix the problem.

Helpful? 4.5/5 [providing a shortcut to Internet connection closes the loop).

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 (look, Chrome got some love and adds to perception)?

The question to answer here is “Why Stay Mediocre?”. (just because everybody else is?).

Opinion? Do you think such decisions are a function of organization/product DNA?

* Opera, thanks to caching showed the last opened webpage, i.e. no clue of your offline status, until you click a link. Helpful? We leave that for Opera to answer.

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