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Good PracticesGood 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 PracticesPoor 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.