Still Life

A Series of Mental Snapshots

Posts Tagged ‘good error’

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.

Posted in Testing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »