Still Life

A Series of Mental Snapshots

Posts Tagged ‘error’

Bugs in the Wild: The Paradoxical Error Message Edition

Posted by Steve on April 23, 2009

A friend recently sent out a screenshot of a quite humourous error message. He was attempting to free up some space on a network drive, by deleting some files, when he received this less than helpful error message:

Error message that appeared when deleting a file

Error message that appeared when deleting a file

The text in the error message is:

Cannot delete week4: There is not enough free disk space.
Delete one or more files to free disk space, and then try again.

It can be seen that this is a faulty error message, and something else is really afoot; one cannot delete files if one cannot delete files.

An interesting question here is why this error message came up? Is this the actual reason the file cannot be deleted, if so a different error message should be displayed so as not to confuse people. If this is not the cause of the issue, then why did this message get displayed?

–Steve


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Anatomy of an Error Message – A Windows Vista Example

Posted by Steve on April 2, 2009

I have recently had a somewhat frequent recurrence of an error message on my laptop, which is running Windows Vista. The error message can be seen below:

Windows Vista Error Message

Windows Vista Error Message

The error message popped up (for seemingly no apparent reason), and to make matters worse, when I clicked cancel a new instance of the error message popped up, and I had to close it about 30-40 times before it stopped popping up!

You’ll notice that the first issue with this error message is that it is extremely uninformative and has indecipherable information, something the user should never see. This lack of information made so that I was unable to identify what was causing the error therefore I was not able to stop it from happening (as a quick note, I did not unplug any disks at the time, so it did not have to do with that). Subsequently, since the first incident, this has occurred a few more times with no real pattern as to what is causing it.

A bad error message is good illustrator to what a good error message should be. A good error message should have the following:

  • An informative title – A user should know what caused the issue
  • Actual error message should provide user with information on how to fix the problem
  • Finally it should provide the user with actions that will help fix the problem identify in the message

The only thing the above error message has going for it is that its title gives a clue as to the issue.

To quickly summarize, the goal of an error message is to inform the user that there has been an error, what caused the error, how to fix the error and finally some actions you can take to fix it.

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