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26 Examples of Error Messages

Error messages are messages that are communicated to a user when an error occurs. It is also common for validation of user input to be perceived as an error message. The following are illustrative examples of an error message followed by several good / poor practices.
Order failed. You will not be charged for this transaction. The order failed because our payment partner is down. We are working to resolve this issue.
Our site is down for maintenance. Please check back later.
Please enter your name. This name was rejected because it contains a number.
Task in progress are you sure you want to cancel it?
The content you requested was deleted by the user who posted it.
The email and password you entered don't match our records. Please double check and try again.
The file you selected doesn't appear to be an image. Please select an image file.
The quantity entered looks too large. Please reenter the quantity.
The zip code you entered doesn't match your city. Please correct it.
There isn't enough money on this gift card to cover this purchase. Please add funds.
This discount code has expired.
This file hasn't been shared with you. Please contact the owner and ask them to share it.
This filename already exists. Please choose another name.
This page doesn't exist. That's all we know.
Transaction failed. There are insufficient funds in your account to cover this transaction.
Upload failed. The file was too big for our system. We currently limit photos to a maximum of 5000 x 5000 pixels.
We are sorry, the software failed to start because it is missing some required files. Please reinstall the software and it should work again. Your data and settings have been preserved.
We can't connect to the printer. Please check that the printer is connected to the network.
We can't display this page due to the owner's privacy settings.
We can't process the video you uploaded. The reason appears to be the format of the video.
We couldn't read the card. Please remove it and reinsert it.
We encountered a serious error. Please restart the software.
We encountered an unexpected and serious error. There is no way to recover from this error so the software will close now.
We have detected suspicious attempts to access your account. Please enter the additional information below to help us confirm that this request is really being made by you.
Your account has been suspended for two weeks because one of your recent posts violated our guidelines. We have emailed you a detailed explanation regarding exactly why this occurred. Your account will return to normal on February 2nd, 2045
Your account is currently disabled because your most recent payment failed. You can update your billing information here.

Good Practices

Good practices respect the user's intelligence and time by explaining an error. Where possible, offer instructions for clearing the error. Be polite and formal.
Anticipate the stress that the error may cause your users and assure them that everything will be okay. For example, tell them that their account is safe and secure if an error may leave some doubt in the user's mind.
Apologize and be polite.
Clearly communicate if a transaction has failed.
Explain what the user needs to know to clear the error.
Make errors visible -- use multiple messages if necessary.
Never clear user input unless it is absolutely required.
Provide information at a level that is appropriate to the user.
Provide lots of information -- avoid needless ambiguity and minimalism.
Respect the user's intelligence.
Respect the user's time.
Take the blame with phrasing such as "We failed to..."
Use plain language.
Use reasonably correct grammar.

Poor Practices

Poor practices make light of an error or blame the user with aggressive messages such as "illegal operation." It is also common for error messages to be vague, meaningless, misleading and inaccurate.
A failure to clearly communicate that a transaction failed. In many cases, this causes much stress for the user.
Ambiguous messages that are unclear.
Condescending messages that blame the user.
Excessive / needless secrecy.
Field validations that don't clearly highlight the fields that failed validation.
Field validations that don't communication a message where the user's eyes are likely to be (e.g. at the submit button).
Field validations that unnecessarily clear data that the user has entered.
Humorous / cute messages that make light of your failures.
Inaccurate information such as informing users that their wifi is down when in fact it is your servers that are down.
Inaccurate instructions such as telling customers to try again when it is unlikely this will work.
Messages that fail to apologize and demonstrate respect.
Overly technical messages that are communicated to an end-user.
Toxic positivity whereby you try to frame a error as a wonderful opportunity.
Uninformative messages that don't tell a user why an error has occurred and what they should do.
Use of impolite or overly informal language.
Use of jargon that is meaningless to many users.


This is the complete list of articles we have written about errors.
Error Messages
Human Error
Latent Human Error
Random Error
System Error Examples
Types Of Error
Unforced Error
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Latent Human Error

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Human Error vs Design Error

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Error Tolerance

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Human Error

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System Error Examples

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