Posts Tagged "error messages"


Low Battery Warning


Posted By on Aug 23, 2016

How far in advance should a product warn you that the battery is low and in danger of dying? On many mobile phones, you will get “power saving mode” with around 20% battery life left. Depending on your phone, that might give it another hour of power.

My motorcycle Bluetooth helmet system gives an auditory low battery warning. It interrupts whatever I’m hearing to say, “Low battery.” Thanks! That helps.

Except it gives it one minute before the unit shuts down from being out of power. This makes me think the low battery warning happen with around 2-5% left.

Not helpful. Remember that warnings should help users fix the problems. Giving me one more minute of power while I’m listening to Google direct me is… not delightful. Give me a half hour or hour so that I know to charge up the unit.

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Remove Most Data-Double-Entry


Posted By on Mar 23, 2015

I don’t want to enter my email address twice. You’re trying to save me from typing my own email address incorrectly? Well I just copied and pasted it. That’s like calling the wrong number, finding out it’s the wrong number, and then hitting redial on the phone.

If you’re going to allow copy and paste from one field to another, you may not save a user from a mistake.

Are you finding that a significant number of users enter their email addresses incorrectly? Then you have a problem to solve. If you are not finding that you have that problem, perhaps you don’t need to inconvenience 99% of users who will type their email address correctly.

Don’t Make More Work For Users

ScreenHunter_169 Jan. 26 12.02

You want my phone number. You want a second phone number in case I want to enter home and work or home and mobile. OK I get that.

These fields are red because I was given an error message saying I didn’t fill out all of the mandatory fields. Alternate Phone is also mandatory.

Asking someone to re-enter the identical number again if they have no second number may fill up your database the way you want, but it isn’t a good user experience. Why not code the page so that if that’s left blank, your system puts the first phone number in both slots in the database. Why error a user out if you don’t have to?

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ScreenHunter_150 Jan. 07 21.29

Unless I can call somebody, give them that code, and get an exact explanation of what went wrong, there’s no reason to clutter things up with your internal error codes.

In this case, I’m just a bit early trying to check in for a flight. The message tells me that. The rest has no meaning to the customer and could be confusing.

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I drive a Piaggio MP3 500ie. As much as possible because it’s so beautiful.

But sometimes in vehicles, things go wrong and we have to message this to users. My car has all sorts of lights that can warn me about things like my tyres being low, the tyre pressure checking system not working, time for an oil change, etc…

My bike is no different. It has a few lights as well as some symbols that can appear on what looks like some sort of LCD. I’ve seen the gas symbol light up. That’s an easy one. I have a light that reminds me my parking brake is on. I have a light that blinks when I use either directional or the hazards. I wish that were three lights instead of one.

I also have a light I wasn’t familiar with until 2 nights ago. It turns out this light is supposed to tell me that my front suspension isn’t quite right. How is it not quite right? Not sure. After reading forums, people had a variety of reasons that this light can go on, but nearly all were temporary issues. Could just be a momentary calibration issue. Like once in a while, my car will say my tyres are low. When I turn on the car next time, they’re magically fine (and I haven’t filled them up). Calibration.

Not everybody sees or notices lights.

In the daytime, it’s not always easy to see my dashboard lights. Also, when I take very long trips, I attach a little pouch to my handlebars where I can glance at Google Maps to see where to go. That covers my lights.

Piaggio had a solution for that. The manual says that if this light goes on, the bike will be limited to 19 mph for safety and to get your attention. I actually found that the bike was willing to go faster than that.

What really got my attention was that with the light on, the bike insanely jacked up the idle. The bike wanted to go forward without me hitting the throttle. The bike fought me at red lights when I had the brakes on.

That got my attention. That was kinda scary actually, mostly because I hadn’t experienced it before and didn’t know what the light meant.

But it made me think about user experience and messaging. How do you get someone’s attention for something? And how do you decide what is important enough to make the bike drive differently to get that attention?

Ultimately, the front suspension issue was fine once I shut the bike off, sat for a minute, and turned it back on. Calibrated fine, drove 20 miles perfectly. Idle back to normal. I read the manual and found out that this error can usually be cleared out by hitting a certain button twice (which I didn’t know). So this shouldn’t be a permanent issue.

It sure got my attention. If only we could do that with websites and apps… make them physically behave oddly to get someone’s attention. 🙂

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I was at a conference of hundreds of UX professionals when the email came in. It was time to check in for my upcoming flight on Virgin America. I was on my phone, and I clicked the link. I got this. Click to enlarge.

2014-03-30 04.42.08

Sorry! We could NOT have imagined that someone might get the email about flight check in on a phone and then click on that link! Instead of just giving you the full website page, we are going to give you a message about how we didn’t do that, and expect you to click ANOTHER link to get to where you were going.

Sorry, sorry, and most of all sorry. So sorry.

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Users rely on what you tell them. It’s all we have to go by.

Last week, I was at Bally’s Las Vegas to speak at a conference (4th year in a row at this event). I thought about buying the hotel WiFi, and started going through the steps.

Last name, yes I know that. Room number, yes I’m in here. ERROR. Got this message.

ScreenHunter_23 Jun. 20 06.40

My name or room number doesn’t match the hotel records you say? Wow that seems unlikely.

I call the front desk to ask why I can’t buy the internet. The operator tells me it’s because when I checked in, I didn’t give them a card for room charges. I thought I’d be putting in my credit card to pay for the internet.

That message COULD have said that but didn’t. It could have said that in-room internet can only be charged to a room, and I should go put my card on file. Instead, it acted like I’m the wrong person in the wrong room.

I went and put a card on my room. I didn’t end up buying internet. Bally’s did end up charging me for the room, which sucked since the conference treats me to the room to thank me for speaking. Now I have to go fix that…….

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Error messages. We see them all day. I just realised that means that all day, we’re filling out forms incorrectly. What the hell! That’s a post for another day.

Today I want to show you an error message with a sense of humour. This is from the admin area of a website I use for an online discussion forum and community. The software is Hoop.la, and we’ve been a customer of theirs since around June of 2000. We’ve been through many company and product names, and we’re always happy with them.

I went to create “Premium Memberships” for my users, and that means collecting fees from them. Our forum is otherwise free, but some said they wanted to donate. Sure! I was trying to set it up for $10 to keep the donation small. But that was too small! I got this error message:

Thank God they’re so specific on that limit!

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Making Error Messages Helpful


Posted By on Jan 21, 2011

I was trying to buy tickets online from a website where I was not sure if I had purchased before. So I acted like I was a new account. Upon checkout, I got this message:

Well, which is it? Your system MUST know. Your system has to know if there is an account with this email address. Your system KNOWS if the problem is that I entered an invalid username/password combination. You know what the problem is. I don’t. Now I am not sure how to fix it. If I try to fix my username/password combination, but the real problem is that I have an account (and you want me to log in), then I will waste my time trying to fix my form.

FAIL. Error messages need to tell the user in plain, obvious language what is wrong AND how to fix it. It would have been a better experience if the message had come back that there was already an account with my email address. It would be even better if it then showed a login form AND a forgot password interface. Boom. Without extra clicks, I have whatever I need right there.

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